Chiefs Flatten Hawks Third-Period Blitz Gives Babcock 200th
Mike Babcock shrugged off as no big thing the 200th win of his Western Hockey League coaching career Wednesday night.
The 4-2 verdict over the Western Hockey League-leading Portland Winter Hawks was the Spokane Chiefs’ 27th of the year. Now that - improving to 27-13-3 - was a much bigger deal.
That and the way it came about.
Two goals 1:35 apart gave the Chiefs another third-period first.
The Hawks had won 31 straight when they were even or ahead after two periods.
But Jared Smyth and Derek Schutz scored early in the third period to seal the win.
“We’re not a smooth-runnin’ machine right now by any means but we did enough in the third period to get the job done,” Babcock said. “They were short-handed, we’re still short-handed, but it’s nice to have some guys back. We scored some good goals on a good goaltender and got some nice saves from a good goaltender.”
Portland played without the injured Chris Jacobson (groin pull) and two World Junior Tournament performers, Marian Hossa and Andrej Podkonicky, three players who’ve accounted for 52 goals.
The Chiefs were without left wing Curtis Suter, who sat out with a league-mandated suspension. Suter picked up a slashing major Sunday in Seattle, his third game misconduct, which triggers a one-game vacation. Spokane is also rotating leave time for its World Junior Tournament veterans.
Defenseman Zenith Komarniski and right wing Marian Cisar are home but defenseman Brad Ference and winger Ty Jones were back from their international hockey stint - and key factors - before 5,652 in the Arena.
Playing with more jump with Ference, Jones and rookie Brandin Cote back in the lineup, the Chiefs took early advantage of the first manpower advantage they’ve had in nearly a month.
They scored first with an extra attacker from a delayed penalty. The Portland defense hauled down Jones going to the net. Goaltender Aren Miller came off, Trent Whitfield hopped on in his place and the rapidly rotating Chiefs found the open man.
It was Perry Johnson, whose shot from the high slot beat goaltender Brent Belecki, a rare sighting for Chiefs fans. Belecki came in with a .935 saves percentage and a 4-1 record against Spokane. “I split the D and got tripped,” Jones said. “I didn’t see Perry put it in the back of the net. I was on my stomach. I had no clue.”
The Hawks got the equalizer with 15 seconds left in the second period after Bobby Russell took a faceoff in the Chiefs zone from Spokane’s Greg Leeb. Marty Standish picked up the puck in the slot and got off a knuckleball shot that fluttered past Miller’s blocker.
The Winter Hawks ended Miller’s shutout bid on what was only their fourth shot of the second period. It was a tough goal, given Spokane’s tight-checking defense and Portland’s unblemished record when tied or leading after two.
Tied at 1 two minutes into the third period, Smyth scored on the wraparound and Schutz followed with his 13th goal of the year on a superb between-the-legs backhanded feed from Leeb.
With Miller stopping 25 of 27 shots, the Chiefs had enough to take out Portland (30-8-2) for only the second time in six meetings. The Winter Hawks had won nine straight on the road.
Schutz and Smyth each had a goal and an assist.
“Smytty - that was a helluva goal by him,” Babcock said.
Smyth said, “I came halfway around the net, kind of lost my balance but it slipped in. It’s always good to get one of those. He (Belecki) must have got caught up on the other side.”
What was a quick, clean game ended in a brawl after Spokane’s Ference finished a check and slammed a fist into Portland’s Marty Standish as the horn sounded. Portland’s Brenden Morrow jumped in and Ference had two Winter Hawks on his hands. Chiefs captain Trent Whitfield also got involved.
Referee Chris Rooney handed out matching penalties at game’s end - a roughing minor to Ference, a double minor to Whitfield and a misconduct to Whitfield. Portland’s Standish wound up with a roughing minor. Morrow got the double minor and the misconduct.
The Chiefs go to Seattle on Friday.
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Changed from the Idaho edition.