A wounded and angry Giant invaded the Arena Saturday night, but the Spokane Chiefs didn’t flinch.
A pair of nifty goals and a stellar defense provided the Chiefs and 8,358 fans with a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Giants, who lost 8-2 a night earlier at Tri-City.
“We knew we’d get a real good effort from them, and I believe we did, (but) I thought our guys handled their effort and came back at them with a little extra,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “I just thought we played a real good solid game tonight.”
The Chiefs continued their recent late-period success, scoring with 49 seconds left in the first period for a 1-0 lead. While skating 4-on-4, Mitch Wahl corralled a loose puck in the neutral zone and sent Levko Koper away on a breakaway for his 10th goal.
Spokane increased the lead to 2-0 midway through the second period when Wahl scored his third goal in three games with a high wrister from the right circle. The play was set up by a fabulous touch-pass from Kyle Beach, who softly flipped the puck into the air over a defender right to Wahl just inside the blue line.
“Koper is a guy who works real hard and has a lot of speed,” Wahl said. “I just kind of feathered it to the middle and he ripped right down the middle and was in on a breakaway.
“Obviously, Kyle is a really skilled player. It was a great pass, he flipped it right over the guy, it landed perfect for me and I was able to get off a good shot.”
Sauter liked the way the two goals played out.
“The breakaway, Johnny (Tyler Johnson) had one before that,” Sauter said. “Obviously, I like seeing us score one of two, I’ll take that any time.
“The (Beach) pass was nice – not a lot of people even think of doing that – but we’ve been talking about shooting it by the defenseman defending you and I thought Wally did an excellent job using the guy as a screen and putting a good, hard shot on the net.”
However, a rash of penalties against the Chiefs were costly as Brendan Gallagher poked the puck in during a scramble in front of the net while the Giants at a 5-on-3 advantage to make it 2-1 with less than 5 minutes remaining in the second period.
But in the third, the Chiefs limited Vancouver to one shot in the first 16 minutes, then held on in a wild final 30 seconds after goalie Jamie Tucker was pulled for an extra skater.
“We knew we had to play tight ‘D,’ but we knew if we played our game we’d be fine,” defenseman Corbin Baldwin said.
The Chiefs (10-6-1, 21 points) caught the Everett Silvertips, who play in Spokane Tuesday night, in the U.S. Division standings. Vancouver (12-6-3, 27 points) continues to lead the B.C. Division.
“We’re just doing what we do, we’re getting better every day,” Wahl said.