After hanging to their playoff hopes by a thread for the last month, the Spokane Chiefs are now eliminated from the Western Hockey League postseason.
The Spokane Chiefs fell 4-0 to the Everett Silvertips on Wednesday at Arena and Portland defeated Prince George 5-4 at home to clinch the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. It’s the first time the Chiefs have missed the playoffs since the 2006-05 season.
The game soured early for Spokane.
After Pavel Kousal sent an errant pass from his own corner right in front of Chiefs goaltender Jayden Sittler, Cal Babych capitalized in the crease 5:48 into the game to put Everett up 1-0. Devon Skoleski followed with a rebound goal to put the Silvertips up 2-0.
Former Spokane Chief Dominic Zwerger and Aaron Irving each scored in the second period, almost within a minute of each other, to push the Silvertips’ lead to 4-0.
Fatigue was a major contributor to the Chiefs’ lackluster start, according to coach Don Nachbaur.
“We looked tired and we made so many mistakes in the first period,” he said. “All things considered, we played pretty poorly.”
The bookend of the Chiefs’ most recent four-game was a game last night in Seattle. With poor conditions in Snoqualmie Pass, the team had to wait out the weather. The team didn’t return in Spokane until 5:30 a.m.
Chiefs captain Tyson Helgesen isn’t buying that as an excuse for poor play, though.
“We have to show up everyday to play regardless, even if you didn’t get much sleep last night or not,” he said.
While playoffs are now out of reach, the rest of the games still mean something to Nachbaur and the Chiefs. Especially for the development of the team’s younger players.
“We got a lot of good young players,” Nachbaur said. “And we have to get them quality ice time and keep building good habits.”
“We have to show pride, battle for the guys we’ve been with all year long,” Helgesen said. “Just because we’re out of playoffs doesn’t mean we’re going to stop buying in.
Zwerger says goodbye to Spokane
Zwerger may have been the happiest guy in the Silvertips locker room.
Not only did Everett reclaim first place in the U.S. division with the convincing victory, the former Spokane Chiefs player was greeted with hugs from his past teammates and received a standing ovation from the fan as he exited for the dressing room.
“Coming back here for the last time ever, playing in front of these fans, it was amazing how they treated me at the end,” Zwerger said. “It was definitely the best time of my life so far playing in the WHL for Spokane and Everett.”
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