KENT, Wash. – Define special.
Sure, it’s the power play, which provided the winning goal in Spokane’s 3-2 victory over Seattle Wednesday night, and the penalty kill, which blanked the Thunderbirds’ three advantages.
But it’s also veteran defenseman Trevor Glass, who made the pass to Ondrej Roman for the winner midway through the second period of the Western Hockey League playoff game before 2,872 fans at ShoWare Center.
Glass had missed a dozen games with an injury before returning to the lineup with two assists in the Chiefs’ 5-1 victory Tuesday night.
“You replace a forward who’s played probably four games on defense in two years with a 20-year-old defenseman that’s won two Western Hockey League titles,” Spokane coach Hardy Sauter said. “He’s going to be a professional hockey player next year. You can’t replace someone like that.”
The Chiefs take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference series back to Spokane after sweeping two road games. They can wrap things up on Saturday at the Arena.
“Now we’re back to playing Chiefs hockey,” standout goalie Dustin Tokarski said. “We’re working harder than them. I don’t know if we’ve won a game this year when we didn’t work harder than the opposition. Having Trevor back is great, because you know he’s going to make the right decision with the puck 99 percent of the time.”
Spokane has the commanding lead because of a picture-perfect power-play goal. The Chiefs snapped the puck from Jared Spurgeon at the right point to Drayson Bowman in the right circle to Glass at the left point.
“It happened fast,” Glass said. “They were playing up really high, so Spurg threw it down to Bow and he threw it across to me. I just saw Roman wide open in front of the net. Instead of shooting the puck, I was able to put it on his tape and he finished it off.”
Glass, who played in the Memorial Cup with Medicine Hat before a trade to Spokane midway through last season to help the Chiefs’ successful Cup run, made use of his downtime.
“Hardy said right away, ‘When you’re watching the games make sure you don’t just sit there watching the game,’ ” Glass said. “You have to take stuff in. I tried to find player’s tendencies. It’s really helped my game.”
“He was roaring to get back out there and that’s what he did with a couple of assists last night,” Tokarski said.
Glass wasn’t going to take all the credit for the road sweep after the home split.
“I didn’t play the games in Spokane so it’s hard for me to tell, but from what I see is we’re being a lot more physical,” he said. “We’re not giving skill guys like (defenseman Thomas) Hickey time to make plays. Those guys are gamers. When you take that away, it’s hard for them to play.”
He wasn’t the only returning player to make his presence felt. The Chiefs also got rugged forward Ryan Letts back for the road games after a 10-game suspension.
“He’s a big strong forward – not many guys like to play against him,” Sauter said. “He gives us another dimension with our forecheck, a big strong body.”
For the second straight game there was an offensive flurry in the first period.
Justin McCrae gave the Chiefs a 1-0 lead barely three minutes into the game. Less than five minutes later, it was 2-2.
McCrae reached the puck first after a long, high, wide shot dropped off the glass to Pickard’s right and quickly turned to bank the puck off the goalie’s skate for his first goal of the playoffs.
Tyler Johnson capped the fireworks by converting a centering pass from Mitch Wahl for his second goal of the series.
Between the Chiefs’ goals, Jim O’Brien and Jeremy Schappert converted for the T-Birds.
“The guys were good tonight,” Sauter said. “Having Glass and Letts in the lineup helps. In tonight’s game especially, our young guys knew what to expect in back-to-back playoff games, as far as where your emotional level needs to be.”