EVERETT — Perpetually playing from behind is a tough way to win a hockey game.
The Silvertips found that out on Saturday, as the Spokane Chiefs scored on the first shot on goal to start each period in a 6-3 Game 1 win over Everett to open a Western Conference semifinals best-of-seven series at Angel of the Winds Arena.
“Our room has to be ready to compete for a full 60 minutes,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “They came out and jumped on some of our mistakes.”
Spokane jumped out to a 3-2 lead 39 seconds into the culminating period, as Luke Toporowski snapped a shot past Everett goaltender Dustin Wolf to capitalize on a defensive zone turnover from the Silvertips.
Puck management was a theme throughout the game. Everett left unsatisfied in that facet.
“(It was) not nearly good enough,” Everett captain Connor Dewar asserted.
“A lot of their goals came off our mismanagement of pucks, and we knew that going in,” Williams added. “Like you saw against Portland, if you turn it over against these guys, they’re coming the other way and they are coming fast, with speed and goal-scorers. It’s something we can learn from.”
The Chiefs provide a different look from the Silvertips’ first-round opponent, Tri-City, which Williams referred to as a “heavier” team. It provided a bit of a shock early on, according to Dewar.
“It’s hard after going five games with (Tri-City) and seeing them and only them, and then seeing Spokane’s pace,” he said. “It was a different look at at first, but I think we transitioned well into it.”
The Chiefs boasted six players with two or more goals in their first-round series win against Portland, which they claimed in five games.
Ethan McIndoe, a 1999-born forward with 16 goals in the regular season, was a representation of that depth scoring, potting a pair of goals against the Silvertips on Saturday to power Spokane.
His first opened the scoring at 2:01 in the first, as rookie forward Jack Finley outmuscled a Silvertips defender in the corner, skated around the net and found McIndoe parked in front, who shelved a shot over Wolf’s glove to put the Chiefs up 1-0.
His second goal was a key insurance goal at 16:26, pouncing on a loose puck behind Everett’s net and working a wrap around through Wolf’s five-hole.
Spokane entered Saturday with the top power play in the WHL playoffs after converting on 6-of-11 chances against Portland. The Chiefs made the Silvertips pay on their only look with the man advantage after Wyatte Wylie was called for slashing, as Riley Woods tucked a one-timer past Wolf to put the Chiefs up 4-2 at 10:20 in the third.
“Nice play by them,” Williams said. “A little puck luck off a blocked shot by (Gianni) Fairbrother and it was right to (Woods).”
Jackson Berezowski cut the lead in half with his second goal of the game, finishing his own rebound at 13:08.
The 2002-born rookie forward was a silver lining in a disenchanting opening game for Everett, scoring his first two career playoff goals in the losing effort.
“Probably two of the best players tonight were ’02s: Toporowski and Berezowski,” Williams said. “I thought both played really good games. It’s amazing what a year does to a player. If you look back at where he was at camp, and I thought he had a really good camp for us, you see how much he matures over a 68-game schedule and the grind of it. It was great to see him step up.
“Hopefully it continues to build his confidence and we’ll continue to play him lots. This time of year, it doesn’t matter if it is your 16-year-olds or 19-year-olds, the guys that step and execute will play. He did that all night and he got rewarded.”
After Spokane’s Eli Zummack scored at the 1:41 mark of the second, Berezowski scored on a rebound for his first of the night to knot the game at two.
Five-on-five play was no issue for the Chiefs, but Spokane struggled to stay out of the box and gifted Everett three power plays in the opening period.
Zack Andrusiak made the Chiefs pay seven seconds after Ty Smith was nabbed with an interference minor penalty, potting his fifth goal of the playoffs with the man advantage at 12:54 in the opening period. Wylie snapped a shot from the right circle into Chiefs’ goaltender Bailey Brkin’s chest and Andrusiak pinched down to bury the loose puck.
Luc Smith flicked in an empty-net goal at 18:06 to finish the scoring.
Dawson Butt left in the first period with an undisclosed injury and did not return. It left Everett with just 10 forwards, after dressing 11 forwards and seven defensemen in favor of the more conventional 12 and seven look to start the game.
“The guys did what they could with what we had there,” Williams said. “It’s obviously difficult with 10 forwards over the course of the game, but I thought our guys played an honest game.”
With the loss on home ice, Everett needs to claim at least a game in Spokane’s building to capture the series.
Wolf stopped 17 of 22 shots for the Silvertips.
Brkin made 29 of 32 saves for the Chiefs.
Everett and Spokane play Game 2 with a 4:05 p.m. puck drop on Sunday at Angel of the Winds Arena.
Williams on Spokane’s play style and makeup: “They skate, they (get out in) tranisition. If you look at their depth or goal scoring, they don’t have a lot of 30-goal scorers, but they have a lot of them. I’m not sure if you can sit there and say they have a first line, because they have three first lines. They did a really good job and have some active (defensemen) back there with (Nolan) Reid and Ty Smith and some shutdown ‘D.’ They’re a team if you don’t manage the puck, they’ll score goals and they’ll score quickly. Tonight, those goals there were some good shots and quick releases.”