Things are going so well for the Spokane Chiefs that it's hard to come up with “yeah, buts” to counterbalance the excitement of their 10-2 start to the Western Hockey League season. The top candidate for the Debbie Downers of the world is that it's hard to believe that Mitch Holmberg (16 goals, 31 points) and Mike Aviani (11 goals, 21 points) can keep up their red-hot paces. True, but it's important to remember that the Chiefs' veteran defense and 20-year-old goalie Eric Williams have helped to make Spokane anything but one- (or two-) dimensional. Williams leads the league in goals-against average and the Chiefs are allowing just more than two goals per game. Throw out a bad first period against Portland and a bad third period against Edmonton and the Chiefs have allowed 18 goals in 34 periods (plus two games that went into overtime). Read story
Spokane scored four goals against an Everett team that had allowed a league-low 20 goals in nine games. The first time the teams met, Oct. 5 in Everett, Spokane won 1-0 in overtime on Liam Stewart's goal, assisted by Mitch Holmberg and Reid Gow. Now only Everett (24 goals) and Eastern Conference-leading Medicine Hat (23) have allowed fewer goals than the Chiefs.
“It’s not just Reid,” coach Don Nachbaur said of his defenders. “There’s a group of five guys back there, veteran guys who have been really solid in front of our goaltenders, whether it’s (Cole) Wedman, (Tyler) King, (Jeremy) McIntosh or (Jason) Fram. They’ve all contributed to keep the puck out of the net and we’re getting timely scoring from some people. It’s a pretty good team game.”
Nachbaur pointed out that Spokane is playing without two of its top offensive hopes behind Holmberg and Aviani. Center Stewart and left wing Adam Helewka are both nursing injuries.
Gow, the Chiefs' captain, was quick to credit the man playing behind him.
“(Goalie) Eric Williams has been standing on his head,” Gow said. “Every night he’s unbelievable. We just try to move the puck to our forwards, who have tremendous skill, and let them go to work.”
Gow and Holmberg have played together for four years and are best friends.
“He may be humble, but he’s not playing humble,” Gow said. … “I say, get the best player the puck and see what he can do. I was lucky enough to get a couple of assists on his goals, but it was all him.”
Holmberg said he didn't know about his 100th career goal until he heard it on an intercom.
“It’s definitely a neat one to hit,” Holmberg said. “I’m excited about that but, saying that, we have to get back tomorrow and work on more. It honestly didn’t run through my mind until they said it, but it was a cool thing to hit tonight.”
Holmberg, who praised the first career goals of Jacob Cardiff and Adam Hascic, said he didn't remember his first career goal: “That was a long time ago,” he said. “I'm getting old.”
“The guy scores 100 career goals and he doesn’t remember?” Gow joked. “I remember exactly. It was in Tri-Cities for my first-ever game at 16. I got a slap shot on a power play and I’ll never forget it.”
Neither will Cardiff, whose moment came Friday.
“(Carter) Proft made a good play and just kind of nudged it out to the slot,” Cardiff said. “I thought Profty should have had (an assist) for sure. … Just the other night I had an open net and I just put it wide. Somebody got a stick on it.”