Minulin finding stride as ‘Tips top Chiefs for 7th straight

Everett holds off a Spokane rally in the third period to win 4-2.

EVERETT — From his first game with the Silvertips, Everett’s coaching staff has lauded Artyom Minulin for his steady play on defense and his overall hockey acumen.

The former Swift Current defenseman had not played hockey in about six months before his Everett debut on Nov. 9 at Kamloops— he was out for the beginning of the season with an upper-body injury that lingered from the Broncos’ Memorial Cup run, and there was rust to shake off and his conditioning understandably wasn’t where it needed to be.

About two months following his Silvertips debut, the 20-year-old defenseman is starting to see his game evolve.

The overage import forward recorded a key assist, a stretch pass that set up a key Silvertips goal from Bryce Kindopp in the second period, in Everett’s 4-2 win over the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Wednesday at Angel of the Winds Arena.

“That was a real nice play,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said. “To be able to corral that puck and to be able to shake off that defender and score there high glove, that’s a really skilled play by Bryce, but a really skilled play by (Minulin).

“(Minulin) has got a really good stick on the defensive side and I think you’re starting to see him make some headsier plays and I think you saw that on that pass. He’s a really solid player out there and I think with the amount of minutes he plays and the players he has to play against, I think that says a lot about how he’s been playing, because he always gets the opportunity to play against the other team’s best. Obviously that’s a compliment for a player … that says that the coaching staff has that trust in you, and he’s earned that quickly.”

Minulin will be the first to admit to you he was sucking wind after his first couple shifts with the Silvertips. But you wouldn’t even be able to tell with his play.

“It was hard to get back to it when (I) didn’t play for six months,” Minulin said after practice on Monday. “I’m feeling pretty well right now and I’m ready to go 100 percent.”

Minulin was a productive player from the blueline during Swift Currrent’s run to the Memorial Cup, with the Tyumen, Russia native potting 13 goals and chipping in 30 assists in 64 regular season games and posting eight points in 20 games during the Western Hockey League playoffs. He has yet to score a goal in Everett, but he’s added eight assists in just 14 games with the Silvertips.

Williams said a change of role has impacted the way he’s generating offense, not necessarily holding back his offensive skillset.

“Last year in Swift, it was a little bit of a different setup for him,” Williams said. “They were pretty heavy up front and tried to score goals. It was a much different makeup. For him, who wants to play pro hockey, has to continue to round out his game in all facets, offensively and defensively. We’ve probably held him a little bit more accountable here and he’s done a great job with it, but he hasn’t jeopardize what’s he’s able to do offensively as well.”

Jackson Berezowski potted his fifth goal of the season with 2:27 remaining in the opening period. Recently acquired forward Max Patterson broke loose in the slot and fired a puck off Chiefs’ goaltender Bailey Brkin’s leg pad and Berezowski pounced on the rebound to put Everett up 1-0. Patterson picked up the primary assist in the first period with his new club and Sahvan Khaira was credited with the secondary helper.

Kindopp scored his 11th goal of the season at the 18:23 mark of the second period to put Everett up 2-0. The 19-year-old forward roofed a wrist shot past Brkin on a breakaway after being fed by Minulin from the Silvertips’ zone.

“That (goal) definitely wouldn’t have happened without him,” Kindopp said. “I just got off the bench and saw an opening. He’s a great hockey player and he made a great pass.”

Jake Christiansen’s power-play goal at the 15:12 mark put Everett up 3-0. The Silvertips (23-7-1-0) outshot the Chiefs 14-6 in a dominant second period.

But Everett let it get interesting in the third.

Ethan McIndoe put a small dent in Everett’s lead with a power-play goal 48 seconds into the final period. A trio of rouging minors given to Sahvan Khaira, Sean Richards and Dawson Butt and corresponding minors handed to Spokane’s Eli Zummack for a fracas at the end of the second period gifted Spokane a power-play.

The Chiefs made it interesting, with Riley Woods scoring a power-play goal with 10:34 remaining after another roughing penalty was handed out to Gianni Fairbrother. But Richards’ empty-net goal with 1:35 to go iced the win.

Dustin Wolf (21-7-1-0) made 25 saves in the winning effort.

Brkin (10-4-1-1) made 34 in the loss.

Everett has won seven consecutive games since losing to Spokane (14-10-2-2) in overtime on Nov. 18 and have claimed at least a point in nine straight.

Injury report

Import forward Martin Fasko-Rudas was on the receiving end of a crushing open-ice hit in neutral zone during the first period and did not return to the Silvertips bench.

“(It was) real tough (to lose him),” Williams said. “He’s been playing real hard and we were down to 10 forwards for the whole game. It’s probably why we got tired and took some silly penalties. We’ll give a full day off for the boys tomorrow and give them some rest and get ready for Saturday.”

Next up

The Silvertips travel down I-5 for a matchup with U.S. Division-rival Seattle at 6:05 p.m. on Saturday.

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