The Spokane Chiefs became the ninth team in the 22-team Western Hockey League to collect its 20th win on Saturday night by dispatching the Prince George Cougars 6-3. Four of those teams have exactly 20 wins, so the Chiefs are essentially tied for sixth in league wins. Read story
Spokane improved to 20-12-0-2 through 34 games. Last year, through 34 games, the Chiefs were 23-10-1-0.
Last year's holiday break came after Game 34. This year, the Chiefs will play an extra game before the break, a 4 p.m. Sunday matchup at Everett. Spokane is 3-0 against Everett (21-9-4-0) this season.
"We had a little slide there (recently), but I think we’re starting to get back in the right direction," Mitch Holmberg said of the Chiefs' recent 4-6-0-2 skid. "We’d love to go (to the break) with 21 wins and it’s the only way you can look at it."
"We just want to continue to improve, regardless of what the standings say," Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. "I don’t think we’re a Memorial Cup contender right now, but we want to be realistic. We have a lot of young kids that we want to get better every day."
Holmberg, who has 122 career goals with the Chiefs, ninth on the team's all-time list, said he got a kick out of defenseman Jeff Rayman's first career WHL goal on Saturday.
"It’s exciting," he said. "You could just hear the Arena go crazy when they announced it. I can remember my first goal like it was yesterday, so it’s good for him and there will be many more to come."
The announced crowd was 8,825, topping by 14 the number during Spokane's Sept. 28 home opener against Tri-City.
The Chiefs finished 3 for 8 on power-play opportunities and killed off all three of Prince George's chances.
"Our power play slipped a little during our skid," Nachbaur said. "Our penalty kill had dropped off, but during that skid we lost Liam (Stewart) and Reid Gow, and those are power-play guys."
Stewart is off to Scotland to play for Great Britain at the U20 World Championships. Gow, who has 33 assists this season, has been sidelined by an upper-body injury. Nachbaur said he expects Gow back after the holiday break.
Spokane's next home game is Dec. 28 against Kootenay. The next before, the Chiefs will reach the season's halfway point with a game at Kootenay.