Mike Babcock has of late referred to his hockey club as that well-oiled machine.
With all the distractions of the past month, with seven players coming and going to international tournaments, he was joking.
The Kamloops Blazers failed to see the humor Saturday night.
The Chiefs - with everyone back - fine-tuned them in the Arena 7-1 before 10,187. Crowd members can enjoy a free lunch pizza, thanks to Babcock’s rapidly improving support cast of Brandin Cote, Marc Brown, Kyle Rossiter and Curtis Suter.
Those four contributed most liberally to the Chiefs’ most lopsided home-ice win in three months. Cote scored a pair of goals in the explosive second period. Rossiter - firmly established as one of the club’s top four defensemen - and Brown logged four points each. Suter scored twice.
“They didn’t need me,” said Chiefs captain Trent Whitfield, who sat out with a bruised left shoulder.
Pizza Hut trades pizza for ticket stubs whenever the Chiefs score seven or more goals. Saturday, Spokane was close to that halfway through the second period.
The Chiefs built a 13-4 shot advantage through the first period and controlled the flow, with no scoreboard payoff. Not so in in the second, when everybody got into the Pool.
Kamloops goaltender Clayton Pool - subbing for all-star starter Randy Petruk - was nicked for three goals in a span of 2:37. When he gave up two more with the 20-minute session little more than half over, coach Marc Habscheid summoned Petruk.
By then, the Chiefs were up 5-0.
Rookie Cote had the first and fourth goals in the assault. Jared Smyth, Suter and Greg Leeb punched through for the others.
Cote got his eighth of the year with a slap shot from the left circle that darted past Pool just inside the far post. The puck appeared to bounce in off a skate.
“They might give that goal to Marc,” Cote said. “That gave us a big boost. With Whitfield out of the lineup, Mike Babcock asked everyone to step up.”
Smyth, once a study in hard luck, continued his torrid shooting, beating Pool top shelf on the breakaway for his seventh goal of the season.
Suter followed at 6:49, Cote notched his second of the period at 11:07 and Greg Leeb logged his club-leading 29th goal at 12:28 of the second.
Pool exited at that point with the Chiefs on their way to their 29th win in their last appearance here in two weeks. They’re not on home ice again until they meet the Kelowna Rockets on Saturday night, Jan. 24. They left early this morning for the long bus trip to Saskatoon, where they’ll headquarter before playing four games in five nights.
Their first game in their third and final swing through the East is Tuesday night in Prince Albert, where they’ll be reunited with former captain Joel Boschman. Boschman, who started the season wearing the captain’s C in Spokane, was traded Saturday by the Red Deer Rebels to the struggling P.A. Raiders. He was traded two months ago by Spokane to the Rebels.
Goaltender Aren Miller came within 6:36 of tying a club record for career shutouts.
Superb in Friday night’s 2-1 win in Seattle, Miller in three games has stopped 71 of 75 shots.
With the approach of the Jan. 23 trade deadline, it’s as though Miller is playing to convince the Chiefs they don’t need to swing a deal to bring in a Memorial Cup goalie.
“He’s played real well,” Babcock said. “That’s real positive for Milsy.
“Suter missed the game Friday night because we scratched him,” Babcock added. “He bounced back strong tonight. Cote was excellent. It’s a game where Leeb, Cheezo (Marian Cisar) and Jones (the first line) didn’t have to do it all for us.
“The thing about them (the Blazers) is that they didn’t try to dig themselves out. It’s kind of like the night we lost here 8-2 (to Seattle). They have to play Portland (tonight). Their bench management was not to play their guys (as the game wore on). It’s not like Ajay Baines (the Blazers’ top scorer) was out there. They didn’t try to get back in it, because you’re not going to get back in it. Why kill guys when you’ve got a game tomorrow?”
Chiefs 7, Blazers 1
Kamloops 0 0 1 - 1
Spokane 0 5 2 - 7
First period - None. Key penalties - DuPont, Kam, 13:07; Jones, Spo, 14:59; Komarniski, Spo, 19:09.
Second period - 1, Spokane, Cote 8 (Rossiter, Ference), 4:12. 2, Spokane, Smyth 7 (Komarniski, Schutz), 5:16. 3, Spokane, Suter 8 (Cote, Brown), 6:49. 4, Spokane, Cote 9 (Loyns, Brown), 11:07. 5, Spokane, Leeb 29 (Jones, Rossiter), 12:28. Key penalties - Leeb, Spo, 18:45.
Third period - 6, Spokane, Brown 10 (Schutz, Rossiter), 3:54 (pp). 7, Kamloops, Gainey 14, 13:32 (sh). 8, Spokane, Suter 9 (Rossiter, Brown), 13:40 (pp). Key penalties - Antons, Kam, 2:14; Hobson, Kam, 7:45; Shrum, Kam, 12:16; Fischer, Spo, 14:43. Power plays - Kamloops 0 of 4. Spokane 2 of 4. Saves - Kamloops, Poole, 13-3-x-16, Petruk x-8-6-14. Spokane, Miller 4-8-8-20. A - 10,187.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Next Tuesday: Chiefs at Prince Albert, 5:30 p.m.
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