Chiefs back in first
In at least one way, the Spokane Chiefs are perfect.
Four different players scored and goalie Dustin Tokarski turned away 30 shots as the Chiefs (34-10-1-3) improved their season record to 6-0 against the Seattle Thunderbirds with a 5-2 Western Hockey League victory in front of 6,705 fans Friday night at the Arena.
Tokarski and the Chiefs have shut out the Thunderbirds (22-17-5-2) three times this season, including back-to-back games on Oct. 27 and Nov. 2.
They defeated Seattle once in regulation and in their fifth meeting last Saturday, the Chiefs had a little more trouble closing the game out, but won 5-4 in a shootout when Ondrej Roman scored in the fourth round.
No matter what the numbers say, though, you can always count on Chiefs coach Bill Peters for the no-nonsense approach.
“We’ve had some success against these guys head to head,” he said. “It means very little right now – it’s all about other things.
“It’s about taking a step, it’s all about where your team is at, where your battle level is each night, how many guys are contributing, are you doing the things that are going to lead you to have success in the end – that’s what matters.”
With the win, the Chiefs regained sole possession of first place in the Western Conference standings as Vancouver fell 3-1 to the Tri-City Americans. The U.S. Division-rival Americans trail Spokane by one point, with both teams playing three games this weekend.
“The guys battled hard – it’s great to see (Justin) McCrae and (Trevor) Glass really get into things and step up and contribute,” said Chiefs captain Chris Bruton, who finished the night with two assists. “They’ve just jelled and fit in so well and as a group we seem to be getting better and better.”
After Seattle’s Jim O’Brien put the Thunderbirds on the board first, Chiefs overage forward David Rutherford evened the score 6 minutes, 42 seconds into the first when he netted a centering feed from Seth Compton.
The Chiefs took a 2-1 lead at 14:07 when Glass scored his first goal in a Chiefs’ sweater on Spokane’s first power-play opportunity of the night.
Rookie defenseman Jace Coyle blasted in a shot from the point, on which Seattle goalie Jacob DeSerres got his stick. Bruton followed up with a shot that DeSerres dove after and when the puck got behind him, Glass followed up and banged it home.
“It’s been unreal – it’s been a great ride,” said Glass of settling into life in Spokane.
The Chiefs acquired Glass on the Jan. 10 WHL trade deadline in a deal with Medicine Hat that gave the Tigers two future draft picks. The seasoned defenseman has 168 regular-season games under his belt and 42 in the postseason – including four in last year’s Memorial Cup.
“The guys have really made the transition easy for me, and tonight I got a good game under my belt. It was good to get (my first goal) off my back – I was wondering when I was going to get it, it definitely takes a lot of stress off me.”
Seattle evened the score with a power-play goal at 10:17 in the second, but McCrae scored with 2 seconds left in the period to give the Chiefs their final lead.
Tyler Johnson added an insurance goal on a beautiful setup from Bruton midway through the third and Judd Blackwater scored an empty-netter, his fourth straight game with a goal, to round out the scoring.
Chiefs leading scorer Drayson Bowman, who is tied for second in the league with 30 goals, is expected out for up to two weeks with a left arm injury he sustained last Saturday in the Chiefs’ game at Seattle. … The Chiefs play their only game of the season against Prince Albert tonight when they host the Raiders at 7 at the Arena.