The Everett Silvertips are among the top teams in the entire Canadian Hockey League for a reason. They play fast and physical, and they make opponents pay for their mistakes.
The Spokane Chiefs matched Everett’s physical play, but it was the mistakes that did them in as the Chiefs dropped a 6-2 decision Friday at the Arena.
Three of Everett’s goals were the result of Spokane giveaways in its own end. That kind of performance would be costly no matter who the Chiefs were playing, let alone one of junior hockey’s best teams.
The Chiefs were only able to get 20 shots on net and lost defensemen Graham Sward and Saige Weinstein before the third period, shortening the bench and even forcing head coach Adam Maglio to rotate some forwards in on the blue line.
The Chiefs were also playing their first game since Jan. 1 due to a COVID break.
“Playing with four ‘D’ for a period and five ‘D’ for most of the game and coming back from a long time off, you could tell guys were rusty,” Maglio said.
The Chiefs didn’t do themselves any favors by taking eight penalties. Spokane gave Everett two 5-on-3 power plays.
The Chiefs held an early 1-0 lead thanks to a Bear Hughes goal at 15:24. Hughes was able to go over the shoulder of Everett goaltender Koen MacInnes for his 11th of the season.
But the Silvertips scored with 55 seconds left in the first period off of Spokane’s first own-zone giveaway. Weinstein had a chance to clear the zone but whiffed, allowing Everett to hold the zone and feed Ronan Seeley at the point.
Everett scored twice in the first 4:39 of the second. Jacob Wright struck first after Hughes couldn’t clear the zone. Jackson Berezowski scored on weird bounce in front of Spokane goaltender Mason Beaupit to give Everett a 3-1 lead.
Ryan Hofer scored on a wraparound at 12:03 thanks to another Spokane turnover.
“Those turnovers were killers,” Maglio said.
The Chiefs got one back when Raegan Wiles scored his second of the season on the rush at 13:13 of the second to cut Everett’s lead to 4-2.
From there, it was all Everett. The Chiefs gave Everett its second 5-on-3 of the game to start the third period, and Niko Huuhtanen needed just 27 seconds to make Spokane pay. Beau Courtney kept the flood going when he scored at 5:38 to make it 6-2.
With the Chiefs scheduled to play again Saturday night at home, Maglio had to get creative to keep guys fresh with a short blueline.
“We’re just trying to keep guys’ ice time down to conserve some energy,” he said. “We wanted to give them an extra rest going into (Saturday).”
Maglio added he doesn’t anticipate getting Sward or Weinstein back for the game.
Maglio felt his team’s physical play was a positive as both teams traded big hits.
“I thought our guys had some pushback, which was good to see,” Maglio said. “I thought momentum started to shift when we pushed back. Killing penalties kind of deflated us and some momentum shifted their way.”
The Chiefs got some relief up front with the return of forwards Grady Lane and Michael Cicek, who have both battled injuries. Lane has been out since Oct. 29 and Cicek has been sidelined since Nov. 5.
“You could tell a little bit that they hadn’t played in a while,” Maglio said. “I thought Grady brought good energy. It’s just going to take a little time. (Cicek) is a center, so he has a little more responsibility and a little more battle, so it’ll take him time to get back into game shape.”
The Chiefs are back at the Arena Saturday night to take on the Kamloops Blazers.
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