The Spokane Chiefs have seemingly entered the twilight zone of hockey, and Wednesday night became just the latest episode in a string of thrilling on-ice performances.
For the third straight game the Chiefs found another fresh way to entertain their fans, and more important found their way to yet another Western Hockey League victory – their 17th win in 19 games and fifth straight.
Two games ago – on Saturday – they scored 11 goals en route to an 11-2 victory over Edmonton, and during Sunday night’s game against the Prince George Cougars Spokane scored five goals in the third period to cap a come-from-behind 5-3 victory.
With 4,420 people taking in the show in the Arena on Wednesday night, Spokane got hat tricks from two players – including one from Drayson Bowman, who scored two of his three goals on penalty shots, and the other from local product Tyler Johnson – and rolled over the Seattle Thunderbirds with a 7-3 win in the first half of this week’s home-and-home series between the U.S. Division rivals.
“I think we’re being rewarded for playing a lot of sound defense and really approaching the games properly as far as preparation and being ready to play,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said of the fact that Spokane has scored 23 goals in its last three games.
“I think there are a lot of good things going on behind the scenes, and the goals are just a reward of all those other things,” he added.
On stage it would appear that Sauter is accurate in saying the Chiefs are being rewarded, and the Seattle game was just the latest example.
Spokane started by taking a 3-0 lead in the first period.
Bowman scored 5 minutes and 20 seconds into the game after he was awarded a penalty shot – the result of a Seattle skater covering the puck up in the crease – and Johnson scored his first goal of the night, and the Chiefs’ second, just a minute later from near the right goal post when he roofed a short pass from Mitch Wahl in the low slot. Ondrej Roman scored at 15:03 to give Spokane a 3-0 lead when he backhanded in a rebound of a Bowman shot.
Less than 30 seconds after Roman scored Seattle picked up its first goal when Jeremy Boyer scored the first of his two goals, but Spokane didn’t let the Thunderbirds pick up any momentum.
Spokane scored the rest of their goals in the second period.
Bowman put in a power-play goal 1:55 into the period and Johnson scored his second of the night at 15:37 to give Spokane a 5-1 lead. At 18:02 Johnson completed his hat trick with a power-play goal and Bowman rounded out the scoring when he fired in his second penalty shot of the night.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before,” Bowman said.
“I’ve certainly never seen that,” Sauter echoed.
What Sauter has seen lately though is a mature group.
“I think it’s the fact that the guys still come to the rink and work – whether in the weight room or running. When we watch film we actually pay attention to what’s going on and you can tell they’re trying to learn from the video,” he said. “The fact that the guys still work hard – really work hard – is huge.
“We’re putting in the work, we’re getting things done and really the group’s commitment to winning at this point shows.”
It most certainly does.
Chiefs 7, Thunderbirds 3
Seattle 1 0 2 — 3
Spokane 3 4 0 — 7
First Period—1, Spokane, Bowman (penalty shot), 5:20. 2, Spokane, Johnson (Wahl, Koper), 6:13. 3, Spokane, Roman (Wahl, Bowman), 15:03. 4, Seattle, Boyer (Silvester, Haber), 15:30. Second Period—5, Spokane, Bowman (Johnson, Spurgeon), 1:55 (pp). 6, Spokane, Johnson (Wahl, Spurgeon), 15:37. 7, Spokane, Johnson (Ulmer, Reddington), 18:02 (pp). 8, Spokane, Bowman (penalty shot), 19:23. Third Period—9, Seattle, Boyer (Dillon, Scott), 4:49. 10, Seattle, Hickey (Wang), 5:20. A—4,420.