THURSDAY, NOV. 5, 2009, 2:17 P.M.

Chiefs finding a groove

The Western Hockey League schedule is picking up and the Spokane Chiefs seem to be picking up momentum.

A 5-1 win over Chilliwack Wednesday night gave them three wins in their last four games and the loss was a well played game when the visitors' goalie stole a game.

"Once you get into some games your mentality changes, you’re always ready to play," Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. "The guys have figured out the speed and work ethic we need to be successful. They’re now implementing that. There is a confidence when we play well we can beat good teams. As of late we’ve played very, very well."

The Chiefs will need that consistency and confidence. After a Friday game in Seattle they play four straight at home, including Saturday against B.C. Division leading Vancouver, Tuesday against Everett, the team just above them in the U.S. Division.

A key factor in the improvement is the play of the unheralded young forwards, which the coach and a veteran addressed after the game, and the defense seeming to find a groove. Keep reading for their comments and additional comments on the trade of veteran forward Dustin Donaghy.

"I think it’s definitely about playing more games," red-shot forward Kyle Beach said. "You get in a bit of a rhythm with each other, getting used to each other. You know where each other going to be.

"A huge thing for me, as I see it, is we have these young guys here, 16-year olds, 17-year olds, some have played in the league, some haven’t but haven’t got a lot of ice time in the past," Beach added. "Now they’re getting ice time, they’re getting their confidence up. You play two games a week, they might have a good game and a bad one, or two good ones, then they have to sit and wait a week to play. If you get (chewed out) by a coach on a Sunday night game and you have to wait until (next weekend), that sits on your shoulders and wears on you, at least it does for me so I’d assume it does for the young guys. For them it’s all about getting their confidence up."

Beach talked about his hot streak - eight goals in five games, giving him 13 for the season - in the game story. He also said, "I started off pretty good when I got traded to Lethbridge last year, I think I had eight or nine goals in nine games. Other than that, this is the hottest I’ve been in a season so far."

What made Wednesday's win particularly interesting is how the defense is settling down and managed to do good things without quite being at the top of their game.

"The four games we played before this one I thought our D played better as a whole," Sauter said. "But tonight, even when we’re fighting it a little bit, they still played good. It’s never going to be perfect but it’s definitely very, very solid."

A beneficiary of that - at least in a Sunday shutout win at Portland and again Wednesday - is goalie James Reid, who addressed some recent struggles in the game story and added, "I think all the D are starting to relax now. … I think they’re getting used to playing with each other now and they’re playing really good, making it easy for me."

It's not a surprise Donaghy was traded with 20-year olds Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Letts getting real close to playing and joining overage defenseman Brett Bartman in the lineup.

Donaghy or Letts would be the odd man out with Spurgeon being a D and while Donaghy didn't really do enough to make Letts expendable, he did show enough to provide some team with a veteran presence on the backline.

"We always try to find our guys a good place to go," Sauter said. "Lethbridge as an organization, as a city, is solid, respected, and we feel good if a guy can’t play here he can go somewhere that has a good reputation."

There is a question that Letts, coming of a serious injury may not be an upgrade, but someone had to go and this is the way the situation played out.

"We don't know (how Letts will play) but from the past Ryan is just fine as far as his hockey sense and how he plays," Sauter said. "It goes back to Lethbridge asking about Dustin. It takes two teams to make a trade."



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