For whatever reason, Everett cannot beat Spokane.
This was game number six between the teams this season. The teams have virtually identical records. Everett outshot Spokane in four of the six contests. Yet the Chiefs won all six.
A big part of it is goaltending. Eric Williams has been lights out against the Tips this season, and he was at it again tonight, making a pair of unbelievable glove saves to rob Jujhar Khaira and Joshua Winquist when both were in free on goal and appeared to have gotten past Williams with moves to their backhands. The only puck that got past Williams tonight didn’t even come on a shot as Logan Aasman’s centering feed from behind the net deflected under him. Williams’ stats against Everett this season: 6-0 with a 1.32 goals against average and .955 save percentage. His save percentage against the rest of the league is .903.
Everett also couldn’t get much going offensively once the Chiefs decided to shut things down in the third period. As a result, the Tips wasted an off night from Chiefs stars Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani, who were held off the scoresheet.
Lastly, I’m going to go on a bit of a rant on hockey officiating. This isn’t necessarily specific to tonight, but more of a comment on the way hockey is officiated in general. When it comes to major penalties and suspensions, my observation is that hockey doesn’t seem to care about intent as much as it does the result. In the third period Winquist caught Spokane’s Adam Helewka low as Helewka bore down on goal. Helewka remained down on the ice and needed to be attended to by Spokane’s trainer, who was checking Helewka’s left knee. While this was going on, referee Sean Raphael decided to give Winquist a major and a game misconduct for kneeing. But if Helewka hadn’t stayed down, I have a hard time believing that play would have resulted in a major.
Therefore Everett, trailing 2-1 with 11:49 remaining, had to first kill off a five-minute penalty, then had to try and get the tying goal minus its top offensive player. To top it off, after being helped to the bench and locker room, Helewka was back on the ice with 2:14 remaining in the penalty. It’s not that I think Helewka was faking anything. But it seemed a clear case of punishing the apparent result of the crime rather than the crime itself.
This is far from the first time I’ve seen something like this in hockey, and it’s not unique to the WHL. I regularly see what I consider to be major-worthy hits up high or from behind, but if the victim pops up it’s just a minor. Then on suspensions, it often seems the length of the suspension corresponds with the severity of the injury, rather than the severity of the hit. I have to say I don’t really agree with this reasoning. If hockey wants to get rid of bad hits, I think it needs to punish those hits on their own merit, not the resulting injuries.
Midway through the second period Everett was down 1-0, but building pressure and on the power play. As the power play was about to expire, the Chiefs lofted a clearance toward the blue line that Everett defensemen Mirco Mueller and Noah Juulsen both went to glove down. Mueller and Juulsen collided and both fell to the ice, presenting Helewka with a clear breakaway. Helewka put the puck under Lotz just after the penalty expired to make it 2-0, and that goal stood up as the game winner.
First star: Williams. 28 saves, he’s got to be in the Tips’ heads at this point.
Second star: Hudson Elynuik, Spokane. One assist, great patience setting up the Chiefs’ first goal.
Third star: Jujhar Khaira, Everett. No points, I guess the Tips had to have someone, and he had a few chances.
The Herald’s honorable mention: Reid Gow, Spokane. No points, but steady as you like on D, and he had some crucial blocked shots late in the game.