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Spokane Chiefs leave regular-season record against Everett in rearview mirror ahead of WHL playoff series

UPDATED: Fri., April 5, 2019, 10:16 p.m.

Eli Zummack  of the Spokane Chiefs celebrates his first-period goal against the the Tri-City Americans on Jan. 12  at the  Arena. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Eli Zummack of the Spokane Chiefs celebrates his first-period goal against the the Tri-City Americans on Jan. 12 at the Arena. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
By Kevin Dudley For The Spokesman-Review

In eight games during the regular season, the Spokane Chiefs won just twice against the Everett Silvertips, their second-round playoff opponent in a series that begins Saturday in Everett.

And, sure, the Chiefs needed overtime and a shootout to get those wins. But six of those eight games against the U.S. Division champions came before the calendar switched to 2019. The Chiefs didn’t ice a full lineup until January, because of a number of factors that included NHL stints, World Juniors participation and injuries.

So the Chiefs who take the ice Saturday night aren’t quite the same team as the one that played Everett six times the first half of the season.

Still, it’ll be a formidable opponent lining up against the Chiefs. Everett boasts a strong defensive core and a 17-year-old goaltender in Dustin Wolf, who posted a .937 save percentage in the team’s first-round win over the Tri-City Americans.

Wolf, who replaced all-world goaltender Carter Hart heading into the season, made sure the Silvertips didn’t miss a beat in net. Wolf was named Western Conference Goaltender of the year. In eight games against the Chiefs this season, he posted a .929 save percentage and recorded one of his seven shutouts of the season.

Beating Wolf will be a lot tougher than what the Chiefs faced against the Portland Winterhawks in the first round. Portland goaltender Joel Hofer surrendered 21 goals in the five games and posted an .871 save percentage.

In that series, the Chiefs got balanced scoring up and down the lineup, with Riley Woods leading the way with eight points in the five games (four goals, four assists). That should give Spokane some confidence heading into the second round.

Bailey Brkin was stout in net as well. He’ll be counted on this series, as Everett boasts some firepower up front.

Bryce Kindopp led the Silvertips in scoring in the first round with nine points in five games (five goals, four assists). Martin Fasko-Rudas had eight points and Connor Dewar had seven.

Zack Andrusiak, acquired in a trade with the Seattle Thunderbirds, also gives Everett some offense. Riley Sutter, who hasn’t played since December, was reportedly cleared for full contact and his status is unknown. Sutter scored 41 points in 38 games (14 games, 27 assists) before going down with his injury.

The challenge for Spokane will be cracking the Everett defense and getting pucks past Wolf. To do that, the Chiefs will have to keep the puck in Everett’s zone and wear out the defense.

Spokane led the Western Conference in goals scored with 267 and Everett allowed only 130 goals in the regular season – 32 fewer than the next-best team. Whichever team dictates the play should hold the upper hand.

The Chiefs caused a lot of problems for their opponents during the regular season and the first round on the power play. The Chiefs had the league’s top power-play unit in the regular season and scored on 6 of 11 power-play opportunities in the first round, leading playoff teams in power-play conversions.

The Silvertips boasted the league’s third-best penalty kill unit in the regular season, so that will be a key matchup to follow.

The Silvertips have home-ice advantage, but because of Cirque du Soleil traveling through their hometown, the Chiefs will get the normal two home games in Games 3 and 4, and a third home game if Game 5 is necessary. The possible three-game stretch could be advantageous for the Chiefs, who were much better at home this season. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, would be back in Everett.

The teams get started Saturday in Everett. The puck drops at 7:05.

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