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Same ol’ story for Chiefs

First, congratuations to Chiefs Tyler Johnson and Jared Cowen for their medals at the World Junior Tournament. Johnson and Team USA ended Canada's five-year gold streak with a wild 6-5 win in the championship game Tuesday night in Saskatoon.

"It feels pretty good," said Johnson, who was dinged up in the first period and missed most of the game. "I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be wondering what the heck I just did but it’s pretty cool."

Hopefully we'll have more from both players soon. Johnson returns Wednesday night and Cowen Thursday night and should be in uniform at the Arena on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs had their hands full against Saskatoon, which sports the best record in the Western Hockey League. The two best defensive teams got into a shoot out before a Blades won 5-4 despite a scoreless third period.

There are a couple of things I want to share, courtesy of Gregg Drinnan's blog.

Of particular interest is a looming battle between junior hockey and American colleges, with quite a case being made for young players to go the college route. The only thing I haven't heard is what players of high school age will do until time to attend college - patience isn't a virtue with youth.

The other story is an interesting one regarding 50-50 draws and big bucks being made at the World Junior tournament.

Now, for the game story

By Dave Trimmer; (509) 927-2154

It’s not a good sign when the top team in the Western Hockey League comes calling and gets a goal from its fourth line just 7:14 into the game.

That should have been the first clue it was going to be a strange Tuesday for the 3,642 fans at the Arena as the two best defensive teams in the league got into an old-fashioned shootout.

When the ice chips settled, Saskatoon, which had allowed 106 goals in 39 games, out-scored Spokane, which had given up 93 in the same number of games, 5-4 – with a scoreless third period.

“The story of Jeykl and Hyde,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “We started poor, we played much better the first 12 minutes of the second, the last eight of the second we weren’t very good at all. In the third, both teams had chances and nothing would go. It’s too bad.”

While the Blades (29-7-1-3, 62 points) finished a perfect swing through the U.S. Division the Chiefs (23-14-3-0, 49) dropped their fifth-straight home game, all by one goal. And coming off a pair of one-goal road wins, the Chiefs reverted to the old form of too many turnovers.

“In Vancouver and Seattle we limited those almost to none, really,” Sauter said. “In tonight’s game and you add in the two Portland games right after Christmas, that’s the difference.

“That’s definitely something we’re going to continue to talk about and work on. Usually when our group decides to do something as a whole, they do it. We’re obviously hoping that’s something we improve on.”

Why they would get away from that against a team the caliber of the Blades is a myster.

“Partly it’s because they’re young, partly it’s sometimes you try to make something happen and it’s not necessarily the low risk play,” Sauter said. “For the most part, when we were going good and we won it’s because we’re taking care of the puck. When things aren’t going our way it’s usually because we don’t make the other team take it, we give it away.”

The first period was kind of high scoring for these two teams with the Blades getting goals from Randy McNaught and Travis Toomey and Spokane picking up a Kyle Beach power play goal.

Then came the wild second period.

Mitch Wahl and Steve Kuhn scored 47 seconds apart in the first five minutes for a 3-2 Chiefs lead. Stefan Elliott tied it at 8:26 but Spokane rookie Mike Aviani scored his first career goal just 20 seconds later.

“It feels really good,” Aviani said. “Working hard, staying in front of the net in dirty areas and got one.”

It was his seventh game after getting called up while players were off at tournamenets.

“It’s been great, a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m learning from both the coaches, all the older guys. It’s given me a bit more confidence.”

The Blades regained the lead as Josh Nicholls scored goals 25 seconds apart late in the second period.

“I think at times we had the game in our hands but when we got away from our gritty game plan it sort of went south for us,” Spokane defenseman Jared Spurgeon said. “We just have to stick with what works.

“Maybe it’s too much confidence. We start working then we start trying to get a little bit fancy, trying to make a nicer play than we were in the beginning. After that you start turning pucks over.

Ice chips

The Blades elected to start Adam Morrison in net instead of Steven Stanford, who has inched ahead of Spokane’s James Reid for the best goals-against average in the league 2.30-2.32. Morrison and Reid both had 32 saves. … Spokane forward Matt Marantz could miss up to six weeks with a leg injury, defenseman Grant Leedahl is day-to-day with a concussion. … The Chiefs embark on an eight-game road trip beginning Sunday, after playing home games on Friday (Chilliwack) and Saturday (Tri-City). The Chiefs return home on the 29th after the U.S. Figure Skating Championships conclude.


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