Chiefs win 4th straight

Solid defense and opportunistic offense gave the Chiefs a 2-1 win Saturday night against a top tier Western Hockey League foe. Spokane defeated the Vancouver Giants 2-1 at the Arena.

Below is the unedited game story I filed for Sunday's paper and a few more notes.

First, there was this story in Lethbridge on the Wednesday trade of 20-year old forward Dustin Donaghy and then The Seattle Times story from Friday's 3-1 win over the Thunderbirds.

And here is the Saturday game story.

A wounded and angry Giant invaded the Arena Saturday night but the Spokane Chiefs didn’t flinch.

A pair of nifty goals and a stellar defense provided the Chiefs and 8,358 fans with a 2-1 win Saturday night over the Vancouver Giants, who lost 8-2 a night earlier at Tri-City.

“We knew we’d get a real good effort from them, and I believe we did, (but) I thought our guys handled their effort and came back at them with a little extra,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “I just thought we played a real good solid game tonight.”

The Chiefs continued their recent late-period success, scoring with 49 seconds left in the first period for a 1-0 lead. While skating 4-on-4, Mitch Wahl corralled a loose puck in the neutral zone and sent Levko Koper away on a breakaway for his 10th goal.

Spokane upped the lead to 2-0 midway through the second period when Wahl scored his third goal in three games with a high wrister from the right circle. The play was set up by a fabulous touch-pass from Kyle Beach, who softly flipped the puck into the air over a defender right to Wahl just inside the blue line.

“Koper is a guy who works real hard and has a lot of speed,” Wahl said. “I just kind of feathered it to the middle and he ripped right down the middle and was in on a breakaway.

“Obviously Kyle is a really skilled player. It was a great pass, he flipped it right over the guy, it landed perfect for me and I was able to get off a good shot.”

Sauter liked like the way the two goals played out.

“The breakaway, Johnny (Tyler Johnson) had one before that,” Sauter said. “Obviously I like seeing us score one of two, I’ll take that any time.

“The (Beach) pass was nice – not a lot of people even think of doing that – but we’ve been talking about shooting it by the defenseman defending you and I thought Wally did an excellent job using the guy as a screen and putting a good, hard shot on the net.”

However, a rash of penalties the Chiefs were costly as Brendan Gallagher poked the puck in during a scramble in front of the net while the Giants at a 5-on-3 advantage to make it 2-1 with less than 5 minutes remaining in the second period.

But in the third, the Chiefs limited Vancouver to one shot in the first 16 minutes of the period, then held on in a wild final 30 seconds after goalie Jamie Tucker was pulled for an extra skater.

“We knew we had to play tight D but we knew if we played our game we’d be fine,” defenseman Corbin Baldwin said. “It’s not like we were scared of them. We knew they were a good team.  Everyone played hard, worked hard and Reider (James Reid) played solid it net. It was good team defense all around.”

The Chiefs (10-6-1, 21 points) caught Everett, which plays in Spokane on Tuesday, in the U.S. Division standings. Vancouver (12-6-3, 27 points) continues to lead the B.C. Division.

“We’re just doing what we do, we’re getting better every day,” Wahl said. “We’ve won four in a row. The reason we’ve won four is we’ve worked hard. You don’t want to change the recipe, we’re just going to keep working.”

It helps that Sauter can continually mix up his lines, as well as the defensive pairings, and the Chiefs don’t suffer at all.

“As of late they seem to be interchangeable in a lot of instances,” he said. “It’s just a complement to them. They’re beginning to communicate on the ice a little better, they’re obviously working hard and they just seem to have things going the right way.”

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