Chiefs’ Schutz Stepping Forward
While Mike Babcock was shaking up his lines Friday night in a 6-2 win over the Kelowna Rockets, nobody was doing more to to make the experiments work than Derek Schutz.
Schutz has been the Chiefs’ most valuable forward through the first four games of the Western Hockey League playoffs that resume tonight, Babcock said.
The Chiefs and Kelowna Rockets are back at it in Game 5 of their Western Hockey League West Division quarterfinal series at 6 in the Arena.
Cam Severson and Trent Whitfield would figure in any MVP vote among Spokane forwards but Schutz is doing far more than his numbers (one goal, one assist in four games) suggest.
He’s certainly been the most versatile forward so far. Friday night he drew a lot of early ice time with a number of different combinations as Babcock shook up his lines in an effort to find a hot hand.
Schutz also centered a crunch line with Ty Jones and Kris Graf that accounted for the game-winning goal a minute into the third period.
The change seemed to help Jones, who had a pair of assists in his best showing of the playoffs.
Babcock also lined up Greg Leeb with Whitfield’s line. Leeb responded with a pair of goals and an assist in his most productive playoff outing in four seasons.
Following Friday night’s game, Leeb was credited with Spokane’s fourth goal that had been given to Whitfield.
Babcock’s challenge tonight is to get Marian Cisar back in the offense. Cisar has only one point in four games, and his -4 plus/minus rating is the lowest on the team.
Cisar was the most explosive player in the league during the first month of the season.
Asked for his choice as the Rockets’ player of the game Friday night, Kelowna coach Peter Anholt hesitated, thought about it, smiled and finally suggested “Justin Jack.”
The Justin Jack who picked up the roughing double-minor and the misconduct with 1:08 to go? The player who fought Spokane’s Kyle Rossiter with 4 seconds left in the second period? The guy who leads your club in penalty minutes?
“He was as good as anybody,” Anholt insisted.
Anholt’s point may be that unlike the first three games, none of the Rockets was really outstanding.
The Rockets’ goaltender for tonight’s game hasn’t been announced. They have Jordan Watt, 2-0 in the playoffs, or Chris Noble, who has taken both losses here.
In other series
Goaltender Scott Myers rejected all 18 shots he faced in the third period Friday night to help the Prince George Cougars climb back into their series with the Kamloops Blazers. Myers stopped 42 of 43 shots in a 4-1 win in Prince George that closed the Blazers’ lead in the series to 3-2. The game had a violent end. With 2:11 to go Kamloops veteran David Norrie was hit with a charging major while PG’s Jarrett Smith was penalized 2 minutes for roughing. At game’s end, Mike Brown of Kamloops and Mike Bayrack of PG picked up fighting majors while Prince George’s Richard Peacock was slapped with a stick infraction and consecutive game misconduct penalties after leaving the bench.
Marty Standish had the game-winning goal for the Portland Winter Hawks Friday when they eliminated Seattle 3-2. Portland won the series 4-1. As the West’s top seed, the Hawks sit out the second round, moving directly into the division finals that start on the second weekend of April in Portland.
, DataTimes MEMO: Cut in Spokane edition
This sidebar appeared with the story:
Today: Kelowna at Spokane, Game 5, Arena, 6 p.m.
Cut in Spokane edition
This sidebar appeared with the story: WHL PLAYOFFS Today: Kelowna at Spokane, Game 5, Arena, 6 p.m.