By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — For whatever reason, the Everett Silvertips cannot solve the Spokane Chiefs.
Everett’s futility against Spokane extended Friday night as the Tips dropped a 2-1 decision to the Chiefs at Comcast Arena.
Everett and Spokane have nearly identical records. The Tips have outshot the Chiefs in four of their six meetings this season. Nevertheless, Spokane has prevailed in all six.
“I think it’s always frustrating when a team can control a series the way Spokane has,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “There’s only one response to that, to use that as motivation the next time we face them. We have to solve them.”
Spokane goaltender Eric Williams had yet another fantastic game against the Tips, finishing with 27 saves. Williams made two incredible saves, and this season he’s 6-0 against Everett with a 1.32 goals against average and .955 save percentage.
Dominic Zwerger and Adam Helewka scored the goals for the Chiefs (27-13-2-2), who moved three points ahead of the Tips in the U.S. Division standings despite a pointless night from the league’s leading scorer, Mitch Holmberg.
“You have to do a decent job on their top players because (Mike) Aviani and Holmberg are very good offensively, they have the best power play in the league, and they lead the league in short-handed goals,” Constantine said when asked about Everett’s struggles against the Chiefs. “To me that’s their three strengths. I don’t think Holmberg killed us tonight, the power play didn’t, but they scored a short-handed goal. So we stopped two of the three components they do well, but not the third, and the short-handed goal ended up being the game-winning goal.”
Logan Aasman scored the lone goal, and Austin Lotz made 22 saves for Everett (24-14-6-1), which lost leading scorer Joshua Winquist to a kneeing major penalty and game misconduct midway through the third period. Winquist was mystified as he was given the major while Helewka, who was the victim, remained on the ice with an apparent knee injury. Helewka, who was helped off the ice, returned to play midway through the penalty. Constantine said he did not have a good look at the penalty and was unable to comment.
Everett had a golden opportunity to open the scoring inside the first five minutes when Jujhar Khaira received the puck all alone in front. Khaira looked like he beat Williams with a move to his backhand. But just as Williams has done all season against the Tips, he came up with the miracle save as he gloved the shot out of nowhere.
Spokane then spent the rest of the period forechecking Everett into oblivion, and the Chiefs took the lead at 15:42. Hudson Elynuik, the younger brother of former Silvertips Campbell Elynuik, showed great patience as he delayed before finding Zwerger trailing the play. Zwerger had an open net to shoot into to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead.
Williams made another unbelievable glove save midway through the second as Winquist made a move to his backhand when in free on the power play. Then moments later the Chiefs went ahead 2-0. In the dying moments of the power play the Chiefs lofted a clearance. Tips defensemen Mirco Mueller and Noah Juulsen both went to glove the puck down at the blue line, only to knock one another down and gift Helewka a clean breakaway. Helewka put the puck under Lotz at 10:33 just after the penalty expired.
Everett finally got the puck past Williams at 11:06, but only when they weren’t shooting. Aasman was trying to center the puck from behind the Spokane net, only for the puck to bank under Williams to get the Tips on the board. Everett thought it had tied it with 10 seconds remaining in the period when Mueller’s slap shot from the point rang off the underside of the crossbar. However, a video review after the period ended confirmed the puck didn’t go in.
Then in the third period the Chiefs did a good job clogging the neutral zone and slowing the game down, and Everett was unable to mount any kind of sustained attack, particularly after Winquist was given his early exit.
For the first time in recent memory Everett had healthy scratches. Center Manraj Hayer (concussion), winger Logan Aasman (upper body) and defenseman Austin Adam (lower body) all returned from injuries, while winger Brayden Low was back after serving the two-game suspension handed down by the league for his checking-to-the-head major penalty against Portland on Jan. 8. The only Everett player who was out injured was captain Matt Pufahl, who remains sidelined because of a rib injury.
Chiefs 2, Silvertips 1
First Period—1, Spokane, Zwerger 9 (Elynuik, Whittingham), 15:42. Penalties—Whittingham, Spokane (interference), 7:19.
Second Period—2, Spokane, Helewka 17, 10:33. 3, Everet, aasman 2 (Betker, Leedahl), 11:06. Penalties—Betker, Everett (cross checking), 5:01; Stewart, Spokane (cross checking), 8:33; Oneschuk, Spokane (roughing-roughing), 12:49; Betker, Everett (roughing), 12:49; Stadnyk, Everett (high sticking), 14:07; Elynuik, Spokane (hold stick), 17:55.
Third Period—no goals. Penalties—Winquist, Everett (major-kneeing-game misconduct), 8:11; Chartier, Spokane (interference), 18:30.
Shots on goal—Spokane 10-7-7—24. Everett 12-10-6—28. Power-play opportunities—Spokane 0 of 3. Everett 0 of 5.
Goalies—Spokane, Williams 23-9-2-1 (28 shots, 27 saves). Everett, Lotz 17-12-3-1 (24 shots, 22 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.