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Chiefs power up

Spokane among best with man advantage

Don’t look now, but the team that once squandered 23-straight power-play chances now sits second in the Western Hockey League with a 24.1 percent success rate.

That would be the Spokane Chiefs, who have scored at least one in 13-straight games when they have a man advantage and notched four against Kamloops in a 10-5 thrashing on Saturday.

“At the beginning of the season we didn’t have the time as a group,” new coach Don Nachbaur said. “I was installing things like you do in baseball – bunting, covering first base – spring training stuff.

“We really didn’t execute the power play a whole lot early. We relied on our instincts from last season. We’re starting to reap some benefits. It’s personnel, too. We have good personal. Bottom line is, we have capable guys that are highly motivated.”

And suddenly the team that lost 103 goals and 301 points from a half-dozen regulars last season is leading the league in scoring. Spokane is the only team averaging more than four goals a game, upping its goals-per-game to 4.1 after scoring 19 in two home wins last week.

The Chiefs have won five straight games and picked up points in nine straight and 14 of 15 heading into a home-and-home with Seattle starting tonight. The Thunderbirds, who are five points behind the Chiefs, are at the Arena on Wednesday.

Spokane, after a 2-5 start, now has 38 points, tied with Tri-City for second in the U.S. Division, 13 points behind Portland.

Though balance has been a key for the Chiefs – 18 players have at least two goals – Spokane’s own Tyler Johnson has been the key.

With a career-high six points, including two goals, against Kamloops, Johnson has moved up to third in the league with 46 points and is third in goals with 22.

The defense has also been impressive. The penalty kill is fourth in the league with an 84.8 percent success rate, helping Spokane to fourth in goals-against average.

The 2.93 mark is the best in the Western Division. Goalie James Reid is now fifth in the league with a 2.65 GGA and his 17 wins are third.

All that is reflected in shots, with the Chiefs having outshot opponents by 350 in 10 games, including a 64-to-24 difference on Saturday. The 64 is 10 shy of the team record.

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