After watching the Spokane Chiefs grind out a gutsy win Saturday night against the Tri-City Americans, I woke up this morning for my usual Sunday morning read of the Sports section. When I get to my story, I can't help but focus on anything I've missed.
In case you missed it, here's Saturday's game story from the 5-3 win over the Canadian Hockey League's top-ranked team and Spokane's biggest rival.
Below you'll find extras from the game and other Chiefs notes leading into tomorrow's 2 p.m. game against the Seattle Thunderbirds at the Arena. This will be the first time Spokane has hosted Seattle this season and the second time the U.S. Division teams have played each other. Spokane beat the Thunderbirds in Seattle on Jan. 7.
CHIEFS' UHER STEPPING UP
The Spokane Chiefs 5-3 victory over the top-ranked Tri-City Americans on Saturday night showed several positives for the young Western Hockey League lineup.
Specifically is the recent play of 19-year-old import forward Dominik Uher – who scored twice in Saturday’s game and set up linemate Todd Fiddler’s first period goal for a three-point effort. His second goal – which gave Spokane its final 5-3 lead in the intense, playoff-style game – was a shorthanded, empty-netter with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining – and it secured the Chiefs’ (22-13-3-3) victory.
Since returning to Spokane after helping the Czech Republic finish fifth at the IIHF World Junior Championships, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospect has scored three goals and registered seven assists in his last six games.
“Dom has taken his game to another level since coming back from the World Juniors,” said Chiefs General Manager Tim Speltz. “He’s been playing at center ice, and that’s helped him and that (third) line (RW Fiddler, Uher and LW Mitch Holmberg) – he’s been great for those guys and a real responsible player.”
Uher now has 14 goals and 18 assists in 32 games this season. He’s missed nine games due to an early season suspension, followed by a handful of games due to an injury, and a few more for the World Juniors.
THE PENALTY KILLERS
Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur called his penalty kill unit high-pressure and high-octane after Saturday’s victory – which he was pleased to see after some recent inconsistencies.
“I think our guys all understand that we’ve let our foot off the throttle,” Nachbaur said. “We haven’t approached it (in a high-pressure, high-octane) way for the last four or five games and we’ve paid the price.”
On Saturday, however, Spokane killed all five of Tri-City’s power-play chances – including two in the third period.
“We had guys falling down in front of the puck and paying the price to win,” Nachbaur said following the game. “We earned that victory, and that’s the bottom line. I can’t say the same about (Friday’s overtime loss to Everett). The power play got on track for us, scored a big power play goal for us, took away their momentum and our penalty kill was solid. All things considered we beat a real good hockey team.”
- The Chiefs are 22-5-1-2 when they score three or more goals in a game and 0-9-1-1 when scoring two or less.
- 18-year-old goalie Mac Engel is 6-0-0-0 in his last six starts.
- Chiefs defensemen Cole Wedman and Reid Gow were ranked 142nd and 185th, respectively, on the NHL’s midseason rankings of eligible North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
- 19-year-old defenseman Davis Vandane scored his first career WHL goal in Spokane’s 4-3 overtime loss to Everett on Jan. 13.