Thanks to a few veterans, and an overtime goal by Anthony Bardaro, the Spokane Chiefs stole away with a 3-2 victory over the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday night.
Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur summed up the Western Hockey League game very succinctly.
“I didn’t like us at all,” he said. “I thought we had a lot of passengers looking out the back window of the bus.”
Bardaro’s goal, his ninth, came at 1:48 left in OT, which the 4,927 fans at the Arena liked. It was a credit to the Tigers it took the Chiefs that long.
It was the fifth game for the Tigers (17-8-2, 36 points) in seven days on their U.S. Division swing, while the Chiefs (13-9-2-2, 30) have been off since last Saturday.
“Don’t think I didn’t mention that,” Nachbaur said. “That’s a problem. Lots of time when you have long layoffs you forget how hard you have to play. It’s not like we didn’t work hard this week. There was no sharpness to our game whatsoever.”
“We knew they would be tired,” Chiefs forward Tyler Johnson said after scoring two goals. “Our philosophy was to jump on them right away. We had a slow start but I think overall our guys battled. It wasn’t the greatest game for us but it was two points.”
In addition to Johnson’s two goals, the top defensive pairing of captain Jared Cowen and Brenden Kichton keyed the effort that kept the high-octane Tigers and league-leading scorer Linden Vey in check. And though he faced only 19 shots in his first start after missing a week with an injury, James Reid had to save the game.
“Without the efforts of Reider and Johnny, and Kich and Cowen played good, it’s hard to identify the rest of the guys that stepped forth,” Nachbaur said. “I thought those guys were impact players, the rest of the guys just puttin’ around.”
Johnson opened the scoring when he whacked in a rebound from the crease for a power play goal at 12:24 of the second period. It was his team-leading 17th and came while he was camped on the doorstep, just eight seconds after the penalty was called.
The first period was scoreless with the Chiefs outshooting the Tigers11-3 and it was 23-9 entering the third period.
But just 1:46 into the third, Tyler Pitlick centered the puck from the corner to Reid’s right and Spokane forward Blake Gal deflected it in. Just 70 seconds later, a weak defensive effort allowed Kale Kessy to put the Tigers up 2-1.
However, Levko Koper ignored a good opportunity to give Johnson a better one for an easy goal at 5:27 to tie it.