EVERETT — Minutes after sealing his team’s victory over the Everett Silvertips on Sunday, Spokane forward Luc Smith unleashed a bellowing roar as he departed for the visitors’ dressing room at Angel of the Winds Arena.
Smith and the rest of his teammates were unsurprisingly giddy while filing off the ice, aware of what they just pulled off.
They have the U.S. Division champions on the ropes.
The Silvertips out-shot the Chiefs 31-17, but fell in Game 2 of the Western Hockey League playoff series, 3-1.
“We did a lot of pretty good things tonight,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “I thought we played a pretty honest game. That’s the way it goes this time of year. … That’s a pretty good hockey club and I’m proud of our guys.”
Having lost the opening two games of the series on home ice, Everett needs to regroup and win at least two of three upcoming games at the Spokane Arena in order to stave off elimination.
“We’re not worried,” 19-year-old defenseman Wyatte Wylie said. “The series is not over until it’s over. You have to win four. Going into their building, we have to win.”
After being whistled for no penalties in the opening period, Everett presented the Chiefs with two chances on the man advantage in the second. Everett killed the first, but Spokane capitalized on the second to take a 2-1 lead, as Eli Zummack potted his third goal of the playoffs on the power play at 16:56.
The Silvertips attempted to execute a clear along the boards near the team benches, but Chiefs forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan intercepted the puck and fed Zummack in the left circle. Zummack paused as Silvertips defenseman Artyom Minulin slide by in shot-blocking position and finished top shelf on Everett goaltender Dustin Wolf’s blocker side.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 8, 2019
“It was a tough luck on the clear, we had it on the wall there,” Williams said.
Everett’s most promising chance to get the equalizer came in the second period, but Connor Dewar couldn’t lift a puck over Spokane goaltender Bailey Brkin’s right leg pad after a pass from defenseman Jake Christiansen freed him up in the crease.
— Spokane Chiefs (@spokanechiefs) April 8, 2019
Everett kept the pressure on Spokane in the final period firing off 14 shots to the Chiefs’ five. But Brkin, who turned in a 30-save performance, didn’t relent.
The Silvertips attempted to funnel pucks from both points to the net in search for a juicy rebound, but couldn’t find it.
“Anytime when you can get opportunities around the net, the better chance you have,” Williams said. “The more you can get in that area and get screens and fight for seconds and thirds, I think it’s important. When you are at a 2-1 game, there are no bad shots.”
Everett pulled its goaltender with about a minute remaining, but Smith fired a puck from the Chiefs’ defensive zone into the empty net with 31.8 seconds remaining to seal the win.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 8, 2019
The Silvertips jumped out on top early, a change of pace from Saturday night’s 6-3 loss in Game 1, as Wylie scored just after a power play expired for the contest’s opening goal. The 19-year-old defenseman utilized a nice screen by rookie forward Jackson Berezowski and snapped it past Brkin’s glove side for a 1-0 lead at 16:01.
But Spokane responded quickly.
Jake McGrew leaked out on the rush along the far boards, beat both Everett defensemen and snuck a backhand shot past Wolf after wriggling free on the breakaway to tie the game at one apiece just two minutes after the Silvertips’ opening goal.
[sets calendar reminder for next @TheWHL Top 10]
— Spokane Chiefs (@spokanechiefs) April 7, 2019
The Silvertips played without a key depth forward, 2000-born winger Dawson Butt, because of an undisclosed injury sustained during the first period of Saturday’s Game 1 loss.
“I think we need to get some rest and some bodies back,” Williams said. “You could definitely see their depth, being able to run their four lines out.”
The series pivots to Spokane for Game 3 on Wednesday at the Spokane Arena. Williams said there’s no need for desperation.
“We’ve won this year on the road. I’ve told our guys that,” he said. “There is still lots of series left. There’s no need to get sideways or off the track. It’s not like we just lost 9-1, here. It was a one-goal game. We hit a couple posts early on. It’s playoffs.”
Everett is unable to host Game 5 as accustomed because Angel of the Winds Arena is unavailable from April 10-14 for Cirque Du Soleil. With the two-three-two series format, a potentially decisive Game 5 will be on Spokane’s ice.