Whether it was animosity or gamesmanship, the Spokane Chiefs didn’t care.
James Reid made 26 saves for his second shutout and rookie Brady Brassart scored his second goal in as many games as the Chiefs defeated the defending Western Hockey League champion Kelowna Rockets for the second time this season, 1-0 before 4,319 fans at the Arena on Sunday night.
“The game in Kelowna was really a chippy game,” Spokane defenseman Brett Bartman said. “There were a couple of tough hits and it seemed like neither team was really willing to back down in Kelowna. I think that carried over into today’s game.”
While the Chiefs (12-7-1, 25 points) won for the sixth time in seven games, the Rockets (11-11-2, 23), who suited up only 18 players, lost their fifth straight road game.
“It was their third game in three nights and I think they tried to make every stoppage of play last an extra 5, 10, 20 seconds,” Spokane coach Hardy Sauter said. “They didn’t have a full lineup, I think they were doing everything they can to slow the pace down and get as much rest as possible.”
Each team had only two power plays but there were 19 penalties for 76 minutes with two misconducts on each side.
Brassart’s goal at 3:53 of the second period came when Kyle Beach passed up a shot from the left circle to give Jared Spurgeon a better shot gliding in from the right point but he fed Brassart for a tap-in at the left edge of the Kelowna goal.
Reid made that stand up with his sixth career shutout.
“I’m just playing as usual, keeping the game simple,” he said. “Right now things seem to be going my way. Defensively we’ve been playing very well as well, that makes things easy on me.”
The key was the first 3:48 of the third period when the Chiefs had to kill off the remains of a four-minute penalty.
“When we went into the dressing room we knew that four-minute kill would be huge,” said Reid, who has won six straight starts, allowing just four goals.
“Pretty much if we killed that it would be our game.”
The Rockets had seven shots from that power play to finish with a 26-21 advantage, only the third time Spokane has been outshot.
Despite everything pointing to the Chiefs having an advantage against a tired and struggling team, there was no letdown.
“You can’t take the league champions lightly. If you do you’ll lose, it’s that plain and simple,” Sauter said. “Although the game wasn’t as free and easy as some we’ve had as of late, I thought our guys managed the game well, we improved as the game went on and defensively we did an outstanding job, especially in the third period.”