EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips took the ice Saturday night for their first game in more than 12 months.
After the long layoff, they rode a familiar path to victory: Strong defense, elite goaltending by Dustin Wolf and some timely playmaking.
Jacob Wright put the Tips on the board with a one-timer off a brilliant setup by Cole Fonstad. Jackson Berezowski added an insurance goal by redirecting a Gianni Fairbrother slap shot into the net.
Wolf and the Silvertips’ stout defense did the rest, shutting out the Spokane Chiefs for a 2-0 win in Everett’s long-awaited season opener at Angel of the Winds Arena.
It was the Tips’ first game since their title aspirations came to an abrupt end last season when the Western Hockey League shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, Everett had the second-best record in the 22-team WHL with five regular-season games remaining.
“It was tremendous to be back on the ice with the guys there,” Wolf said. “A lot of them haven’t played in over a calendar year, so this game was a lot of just trying to shake the rust off and get back to how we know how to play hockey like we were playing before our season got cut short. … It was good to get the job done and get another win.”
Led by reigning WHL player of the year Adam Beckman and Eli Zummack, Spokane scored the fourth-most goals in the league last season. But the Chiefs were unable to find the back of the net against Wolf and the Silvertips’ talented defense, which allowed a league-low 142 goals in 63 games last season.
Wolf, the reigning Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the year, made 22 saves in the shutout performance. The 19-year-old Calgary Flames entry-level signee led the WHL last season in goals-against average (1.88), save percentage (.935) and shutouts (nine).
“Obviously Beckman and Zummack are probably their top two guys offensively, so we knew if we were able to shut those two guys down that we were going to be in a pretty good spot,” Wolf said. “And we only had to kill one penalty tonight, so we were pretty disciplined — and especially against a team like that that can hurt you on the power play. So as long as we can keep moving that forward, … I think we’re going to be in good hands.”
After a scoreless opening period for both sides, Fonstad used some nice puck-handling in the eighth minute of the second period to set up the game’s first goal.
The 20-year-old left winger maneuvered his way from the left side of the ice to the right, where he skated around a defender to find some open space in the faceoff circle. He then delivered a centering pass to a streaking Wright, who fired a one-timer into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
It was just the fourth goal of Wright’s Silvertips career. The 18-year-old from Langley, British Columbia, scored three goals in 49 games last season during his first year in Everett. Fonstad is coming off a team-high 52 assists in 51 games last season.
The Silvertips (1-0) extended their lead early in the third period when Fairbrother fired a hard slap shot toward the net from the right corner. Berezowski, positioned right in front of Spokane goaltender Mason Beaupit, deflected it into the net for a 2-0 lead with 17:29 to play.
Wolf and the Silvertips then held Spokane (0-1-0-1) in check the rest of the way to complete the shutout and open their abbreviated regular season with a victory.
This was the first of six scheduled matchups this season between Everett and Spokane. The five U.S. Division teams are each playing a 24-game regular-season slate that consists exclusively of games against one another.
The Silvertips return to action Sunday with a matchup against the Tri-City Americans at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. Puck drop is set for 4:05 p.m.