February 16, 2010 in Sports

It’s a Beach party for surging Chiefs

WHL’s top goal scorer gets another winner in overtime
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Chiefs gong banger Matt Pignataro gets busy after win.danp@spokesman.com
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

The Spokane Chiefs are hot, Kyle Beach is hotter.

For the second straight game, the Chiefs won in overtime, a 3-2 decision over Everett before a Monday afternoon crowd of 4,829 at the Arena, their fourth straight win and eighth in the last 10 games.

For the second straight game, Beach scored the winning goal, giving him a Western Hockey League- leading 42 goals.

In the process, Spokane (35-20-3-1, 74 points) pulled closer to the Silvertips (36-19-3-1, 76) in the race for home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

Beach notched the winner at 1:13 of overtime, his second and the Chiefs’ third power-play goal, after a Mitch Wahl shot rebounded to Tyler Johnson, who put the puck back on Silvertips’ goalie Thomas Heemskerk.

“He had it covered, I kind of jabbed at it and popped it free,” Beach said. “I knew he was out of position, I tried to throw it out front. I’m not sure if it went off him or off the defenseman, but I got a lucky bounce and it ended up in the back of the net, that’s all that matters.”

That came after Beach tied the game with less than 6 minutes remaining, courtesy of an exceptional pass from Wahl.

Beach now has 13 goals and seven assists in a 10-game point streak. What’s so amazing is that for half of that he wasn’t playing up to the standards expected from the 2008 first-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks.

“I think I’m on a 10-game point streak and the first five games (coach) Hardy (Sauter) said it was the worst hockey I’ve played all year,” Beach said. “It wasn’t the best hockey I’ve played but any time you can get a win I’ll take it.”

That’s why, with 11 points in five games, he was a little surprised by Sauter’s assessment.

“It’s kind of an eye opener, like ‘Really?’ ” Beach said. “Then he shows you video and you look at it and go, ‘You know, you’re right.’ You can’t even argue. … You can get that easy point but the rest of the game you’re unnoticeable.”

“He’s working harder now,” Sauter explained. “Before he was scoring, but there were less finished checks, less attention paid to our end. I want to be able to put him out there in the last minute if we’re up one. I want to play him in every situation and for that I need him to be the hardest worker in every zone.

“I think I’m getting that more and more.”

The results were evident as Beach rallied the Chiefs for their first come-from-behind win in 18 tries when trailing after two periods.

Spokane controlled the first period but only managed a 1-1 tie. Despite pressing the action, a little miscommunication led to a breakaway goal by Everett’s Shane Harper at 3:59. It was the 34th goal for Harper and his league-best 12th first goal of the game.

Spokane, which ended up with a 19-8 first-period shot advantage, got that back when Johnson gobbled up a rebound and hit the top-right corner at 10:47.

The Silvertips turned it around in the second period, outshooting the Chiefs 11-8 and taking a 2-1 lead on Byron Froese’s power-play goal at 11:16.

“I thought their penalty kill took the momentum away from us,” Sauter said. “We had two power plays and their penalty kill did an exceptional job … and their team fed on it. It took us until the third started to get any momentum back.”

The Chiefs dominated the third period, outshooting Everett 15-4, but it took a long time to get the equalizer.

“Our guys right now are playing with confidence,” said Sauter. “They know now how fast we need to be and how hard we need to work. They seem to have hit a little bit of a stride as a group.”


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