Chiefs gain boost from returnees
Ulmer, Wahl, Johnson revitalize offense
Stefan Ulmer, Mitch Wahl and Tyler Johnson – all three fresh off of proudly representing their countries – didn’t skip a beat.
And apparently they’d heard a rumor that there was a lack of scoring while they were away on international business. So the Spokane Chiefs trio – and the rest of the team – went straight to work Wednesday night.
Ulmer scored twice and Johnson and Wahl each added a goal – all four on power plays – and the Chiefs picked up a 4-1 Western Hockey League victory over the Chilliwack Bruins in front of 3,658 fans at the Arena.
“I think the whole team’s attitude was that we were (sick of not scoring),” Johnson said.
The victory snapped Spokane’s three-game losing streak in which the Chiefs scored two goals in the span of three games.
“Winning is always awesome,” Ulmer said. “We knew we had to put out a better team effort and we did that tonight. We won and everybody’s happy.”
Ulmer, the Chiefs’ second-year import defenseman, was named the Best Defenseman at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Group B World Junior Championships in Denmark last week and led the tournament in scoring with five goals and six assists as he helped Team Austria to a gold medal.
In winning the gold, Austria earned a promotion to Pool A at next year’s tournament. In this year’s Pool A, five other Chiefs – forwards Wahl (USA), Drayson Bowman (USA) and Johnson (USA), goalie Dustin Tokarski (Canada) and import forward Ondrej Roman (Czech Republic) – represented their countries at the IIHF World Junior Championships in Ottawa.
Tokarski helped lead Canada to the gold medal earlier this week, while Wahl, Bowman and Johnson finished with a fifth-place win over Roman’s Czech team.
Wahl and Johnson, a Liberty Lake native, both live in town and returned to Spokane on Monday. They met with Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter on Wednesday morning. While they were offered time off since they missed the WHL’s weeklong holiday break while playing in the tournament (which out-of-towners Bowman and Tokarski are taking), Wahl and Johnson elected to play right away without the extra time off.
The choice proved to be a delightful one for the Chiefs.
After Ulmer put Spokane on the board with a bullet from the blue line 12 minutes, 40 seconds into the opening period, Wahl added insurance at 12:57 in the second period on a collective play.
Jared Cowen started the effort when he fired a shot on Lucas Gore from the slot. The shot went wide to the right, and Johnson quickly collected the feed next to the right post and dished it to Wahl on the left post, who one-timed the puck past Gore.
Johnson scored 2:58 into the third period on Cowen’s second assist of the night. Ulmer added his second goal of the night a little more than a minute later on assists from Trevor Glass and Seth Compton – who also finished with two assists.
“I think it was good for everyone,” Sauter said. “The guys that were here that returned from the tournaments obviously add some offense to our lineup, so that was a positive for us. I still like our work ethic and the energy that we have. That didn’t drop off and I was real happy with that.”
Chilliwack’s Ryan Howse spoiled James Reid’s shutout bid with 3:20 left in the game when he scored his 20th goal of the season. … Bowman will return in time to play on Saturday while Tokarski will return to practice on Tuesday. … Roman, who returned to Spokane on Tuesday night and will play for Spokane for the rest of the season, should have his IIHF release signed in time to play on Saturday.