By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The buzz around the Spokane Chiefs coming into Saturday night’s game against the Everett Silvertips surrounded the high-scoring exploits of forwards Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani.
Instead, it was Eric Williams who stole the show.
The Spokane goaltender turned in a superb performance, shutting out the Tips as the Chiefs prevailed 1-0 in overtime in a tense encounter at Comcast Arena.
Everett had the game’s better scoring chances, and the Tips outshot the Chiefs 31-21, including 13-3 in the third period when Everett appeared the likelier team to find the game-winning goal.
However, Williams’ heroics kept the game scoreless through regulation, allowing Liam Stewart to squeeze a shot past Everett goaltender Austin Lotz in OT to end it.
Williams finished the game with 31 saves, and one would be hard pressed to witness a better save than the one he made on Carson Stadnyk’s rebound attempt in the second period, when he somehow gloved what seemed to be a certain goal.
“I thought we played a good game,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “Tonight when we watch the video I don’t think we’ll find stuff that we really hated about the way we played, I think we’ll find most of the stuff we did pretty good there. Their goalie made all the saves he needed to make. I said a couple times to myself during the game that it was going to be tough to beat him tonight, he’s on top of his game.”
After the Chiefs survived regulation, it was Stewart who gave Spokane (5-1-0-0) the full points. He rushed the puck into the Everett zone on the left and fired a shot from an angle that beat Lotz to the near post.
Lotz, who also made several nice saves prior to the game-winner, finished with 20 stops. Everett (3-1-1-0) now heads out on a four-game road trip that winds through Alberta then finishes in Prince George, B.C.
Spokane came into the game with the best record in the WHL’s U.S. Division, with Holmberg and Aviani the primary reason why, as the dynamic overage duo was scoring at will. Holmberg had 17 points in Spokane’s first five games to lead the league in scoring, while Aviani’s 12 points were close behind.
But Everett’s defense locked up Holmberg and Aviani, preventing the pair from getting clear looks at goal. Holmberg kept his scoring streak alive by getting an incidental assist on Stewart’s goal, while Aviani was held off the scoresheet.
“We just had to be aware they were on the ice,” said Tips defenseman Austin Adam, who played a substantial role in keeping Holmberg and Aviani contained. “They’re obviously good hockey players, so you have to be aware they’re on the ice and know where they are.”
With the Tips defense keeping Spokane’s offense under control, Everett was able to focus on trying to score. However, Spokane’s defense was Everett’s match as the Chiefs largely kept the Tips to the perimeter. When Everett did manage to penetrate the defense, Williams had a padlock on the Chiefs net.
That was never more evident than midway through the second period. Everett’s Manraj Hayer sped into the zone and fired a shot while being hooked. The rebound came out to Stadnyk, who swept the puck goal ward and began his celebration. However, Williams somehow not only made the point-blank save, he also scooped up and held the puck in the process.
“It looked so obvious that it was probably a goal we were begging them to check it on video to make sure,” Constantine said. “They were adamant that there was no need to, so somebody saw something so they didn’t have to look. that was the save of the game.”
Stadnyk’s chance wasn’t Everett’s only good look in the second. Leading scorer Joshua Winquist had two wide-open looks from the slot in a matter of seconds earlier in the period. He put the first shot over the goal, then Williams made a good save on the second.
Everett had more of the puck in the third period and had some good chances early. Kohl Bauml fanned at a bouncing puck with an open corner to shoot at, and Williams made good saves on consecutive rebound attempts by Tyler Sandhu and Bauml during an Everett power play to keep it scoreless. The Tips outshot the Chiefs 13-3 in the period.
But while the Tips may have come out ahead on the shot clock, it was the Chiefs who won on the scoreboard.
Everett came into the game ranked first in the league on both the power play and the penalty kill. The Tips’ power play was less effective Saturday as it finished 0-for-4 without creating many chances. … Saturday’s game was the first time this season Winquist was held off the scoresheet.
Chiefs 1, Silvertips 0
Spokane 0 0 0 1 — 1
Everett 0 0 0 0 — 0
First Period—no goals. Penalties—Croft, Spokane (fighting), 9:56; Khaira, Everett (fighting), 9:56; Pufahl, Everett (checking from behind), 20:00.
Second Period—no goals. Penalties—Khaira, Everett (roughing), 4:02; Playfair, Spokane (slashing), 10:40; Aviani, Spokane (hooking), 14:40; Proft, Spokane (holding), 17:16.
Third Period—no goals. Penalties—Yamamoto, Spokane (hooking), 4:20.
Overtime—1, Spokane, Stewart 2 (Holmberg), 2:54. Penalties—none.
Shots on goal—Spokane 5-11-3-2—21. Everett 7-11-13-0—31. Power-play opportunities—Spokane 0 of 1. Everett 0 of 3.
Goalies—Spokane, Williams 4-0-0-0 (31 shots, 31 saves). Everett, Lotz 2-1-1-0 (21 shots, 20 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.