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Despite win, Chiefs’ offense slumbers

The Spokane Chiefs remain one of the highest-scoring teams in the Western Hockey League, but you wouldn't be able to predict that by looking at their last three games. Read story


The good news for the Chiefs: Mitch Holmberg has scored five goals in the last four games to increase his Western Hockey League-leading total to 32; and Riley Whittingham has scored twice in the last three games after scoring just three goals in his first 26 games.

The bad news: Nobody else on the team has scored in the last four games.

Luckily for the Chiefs, Holmberg's two shorthanded goals and outstanding goalie work by Eric Williams allowed Spokane to snap a three-game losing streak on Wednesday. Spokane had lost four of its last five games, and six of nine, to drop to fifth place in the Western Conference.

The Chiefs' No. 2 goal-scorer, Mike Aviani (22 goals), is scoreless in five consecutive games after a streak in which he scored in five consecutive games. No. 3 goal-scorer Adam Helewka (12 goals) went through a streak Oct. 25-Nov. 8 in which he scored nine goals in seven games. He has one goal in his last seven games.

“We’re struggling in so many areas,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “The biggest thing for me is work ethic. It’s really dropped off and declined.

“If you want to score, you play with more vigor. It’s not like we didn’t have scoring chances.”

Spokane entered the game with the third-best power-play percentage (26) in the league, but the Chiefs are 1 for 17 in their last four games.

Spokane took 39 shots, its second-biggest total since Oct. 19, but nothing found the net except when the team was down one man.

“The passing’s slow, the skating’s slow, our decisions with the puck and when to shoot it our definitely slow,” Nachbaur said. … “We have some guys gripping the stick tight and not relaxing and not really clear on where they’re shooting.”

Holmberg and Liam Stewart, who assisted on both goals, kidded one another after the game about making sure that both gave the other proper credit.

” 'Stew' got his wheels going and he was able to get there before the other guy,” Holmberg said of the first goal. “He made a great pass into the middle and I thought I could just shoot that seam and it worked out for the best.”

“On the second one, I got six or seven chances there and I couldn’t bury it, so I just threw it back out front and Mitch was there to bury it,” Stewart said.

“I’ve been in hockey a long time,” Nachbaur said when asked about Holmberg's shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill, both assisted by the same person. “I’m sure I’ve seen it sometime, but it’s nice it happened for us tonight.”

Holmberg recorded his seventh winning goal, also tops in the league, and his first since Oct. 8.


  


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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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