SPOKANE — The finality of every season is inevitable, yet for so many, it’s not something that’s prepared or planned for. The emotions and sensations are typically sudden and profound.
So, when Everett Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said he addressed his team on Saturday night, many of which played their final games as Silvertips, what he mustered off the cuff was simply: “Thank you.”
The Silvertips’ 2018-2019 campaign came to a close at the Spokane Arena, as Spokane topped Everett, 2-1, in the Game 5 of a Western Conference semifinals series, winning the best-of-seven series 4-1.
Some players were hunched over and some embraced each other for big bear hugs as the final buzzer sounded and the traditional handshake line ensued.
“It’s hard right now,” Silvertips captain Connor Dewar said. “I’m just so proud of everyone and just so lucky to have played with so many great guys. I had the greatest teammates ever. We never had a team here that was cliquey. You could hang out with any guy, any day and really enjoy yourself and make memories and lifelong bonds and relationships that you’ll have forever.
“It just hurts.”
For some the finality of the season also brings the same for their WHL careers. Sahvan Khaira, Zack Andrusiak and Artyom Minulin, the team’s three overagers, suited up for their final game, as they’ve now aged out. Connor Dewar and Riley Sutter signed NHL entry-level contracts with the Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals, respectively, and will likely move on to the professional ranks as well.
“They’re all great additions to our program,” Williams said of the three overagers, “as well as guys like Dewar and Suttsy who will be moving on. It’s tough. I thought they competed hard all year and they were great pickups for us.”
Everett won the U.S. Division regular-season championship for the third consecutive season, but ran into a Spokane team that was healthy and clicking at the right time.
Regardless, Williams said he was proud of his team’s effort and resiliency against the Chiefs.
“I don’t think we played any bad games,” Williams said. “A lot of one-goal games there. We just fell on the short side. We had a hard time burying our chances. We had lots in the third (tonight).”
The Chiefs boasted a high-octane power play that has scored on 50 percent of their opportunities throughout the playoffs.
Unsurprisingly, special teams played a major role on Saturday night.
After two periods, the Chiefs were on the power play five times, converting 2-of-5 chances. The Chiefs weren’t called for a penalty once.
“I don’t know, it was frustrating,” Williams said of the penalty discrepancy. “I don’t know what to say. I was disappointed with it.”
But that power play for Everett would come. And in a big way.
A double-minor boarding penalty was assessed on Luc Smith with 3:27 remaining, providing the Silvertips the man advantage for the rest of regulation.
The Silvertips couldn’t muster the equalizer, even with an extra skater on the ice for the final 1:50.
“I thought we had a good looks and a lot of guys that laid it out there for us,” Williams said. “(We’re) real resisilent. Real resilient group. Our guys never gave up. Right down the wire.”
Everett outshot Spokane 16-4 in the third period and 35-21 overall.
For the second consecutive game, Robbie Holmes opened the scoring, snapping a shot top shelf on Bailey Brkin’s blocker side to put the Silvertips up 1-0. Max Patterson started the rush after blocking a shot from Matt Leduc at the left point and dished to Holmes along the left wing, who potted his fourth goal of the series.
Leduc started the chain of events for Everett’s first goal, but did the same for the Chiefs’ equalizer.
The 2000-born defenseman unleashed a colossal hit along the near boards in Spokane’s zone, sparking Sutter to drop the gloves with him.
Dewar left the game to head back to the dressing room — although he eventually returned with about three minutes remaining in the period. Sutter and Leduc were given fighting major penalties with Sutter picking up an additional instigating minor, providing the Chiefs a power play.
It was a pivot point in the game.
“When you lose (Dewar), obviously it’s not great,” Williams said. “(Sutter) did a nice job sticking up for his teammate and we lose those guys for seven or eight minutes.
Nolan Reid cashed in on the chance with the man advantage, as his shot from the left point deflected off the skate of an Everett penalty-killer and into the back of the net.
The Chiefs struck again on the man advantage at 5:22 in the second after Khaira was assessed a slashing penalty, as Riley Woods buried a one-timer from the left circle to put Spokane up one. Ty Smith, a Devils prospect and first-round pick, tethered a pass across the ice and the Silvertips’ defense to open the net up.
Brkin made 34 saves for the Chiefs.
Dustin Wolf made 19 saves for the Silvertips.
The game was the last as Everett players for overagers Khaira, Minulin and Andrusiak.
Khaira started his junior career with the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2014-2015 before being traded to Swift Current, where he eventually won a WHL title with the Broncos in 2018. He eventually joined the team Swift Current topped in the finals before the season. He logged 312 regular-season games with 83 points (12 goals, 71 assists) and nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 50 playoff games.
Minulin started his career with Swift Current in 2015-2016 and, like Khaira, was a member of the Broncos’ blueline for their Memorial Cup run before following Khaira to Everett after the Silvertips acquired him in late October. The Russian defenseman finished with 144 points (27 goals, 117 assists) over 257 career regular-season games and 19 points over 44 playoffs games.
Andrusiak bounced around the WHL, playing short stints for Tri-City and Prince Albert, before settling in with Seattle during its Memorial Cup run in 2017. He was acquired in a blockbuster deal that sent Sean Richards and other assets to the Thunderbirds on New Year’s Day. He finished with 149 points (80 goals, 69 assists) in 149 regular-season games and 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 32 regular season games.
Filip Kral was suspended for Game 5 due to a game misconduct assessed to him during Everett’s 4-1 win over the Chiefs on Friday. The league did not specify the reason, but it may have been due to Kral squirting his water bottle near or at an official, which presumably was the reason Kral was tossed.
The Czech Republic native and Maple Leafs prospect is a top-four defenseman, paired with 19-year-old Reid. His absence forced Egor Arbuzov into the lineup and Leduc moved up his third pairing role to play with Reid.
The scratches for Everett were Dawson Butt (undisclosed injury), Dylan Anderson, Conrad Mitchell, Jalen Price and Justyn Gurney.