The Spokane Chiefs began the weekend in sixth place in the Western Hockey League's Western Conference. They could end the weekend in fourth place. Read story
Spokane's 5-3 win over Victoria on Friday night, combined with Seattle's 5-1 loss at Red Deer, moved the Chiefs (50 points) past Seattle (49) into fifth place in the conference. Fourth-place Everett (51 points), which was idle on Friday, plays at Spokane tonight in an attempt to snap a 16-game losing streak at the Arena.
“There’s one point dividing us now, so it’s a huge swing,” WHL leading scorer Mitch Holmberg said of Saturday's Everett game. “We can either go one up or three back, so it’s a huge game.”
Holmberg, by the way, was awarded an extra point after the game when replays showed that he assisted on Dominic Zwerger's second-period goal. Holmberg leads the WHL with 80 points.
The Chiefs are in the midst of an interesting two-week stretch in which they play the three teams they're most likely to meet during the first round of the playoffs: Victoria, Everett (twice) and Seattle (twice).
Spokane finished the year 3-1 against Victoria, notching two easy early-season victories at Victoria and losing to the Royals 4-1 at the Arena in mid-October.
“They’ve moved up the standings,” Nachbaur said of the Royals. “We knew they were a good team and I think our kids came out prepared.”
Nachbaur said the Chiefs played “a little bit of a road game” with their “tenacious” style. The Chiefs actually have a slightly better record on the road (12-6-0-1) than at home (12-7-0-1).
Getting Zwerger, Markson Bechtold and Cole Wedman into the scoring column was a big boost.
“Even our fourth-line and third-line guys had some huge contributions, and (goalie Eric Williams) was fantastic,” Nachbaur said.
“Since after Christmas, the younger guys are doing awesome,” said Holmberg, who moved past Brandin Cote into 12th place alone on the club's all-time scoring list with 258 points. “They’re getting goals and those aren’t the goals that mean nothing to our team. It’s a positive to have those guys get the confidence to get the puck on net.”
“I scored two goals in five games (last year), so I guess I peaked then,” Bechtold joked. “I hope this opens the floodgates a little bit.”