Chiefs seize 2-0 series lead
PORTLAND — Every time the Portland Winterhawks had a glimpse of hope, the hard-working Spokane Chiefs and goalie James Reid snuffed it.
Reid had 39 saves and teammate Kenton Miller had two goals as Spokane topped Portland 4-2 in in Game 2 of the teams’ Western Hockey League playoff series on Sunday afternoon at the Rose Garden.
“(Reid) has been extremely solid for us, especially over the last two months,” said Spokane Chiefs Coach Hardy Sauter. “(Game 1) might not have been his best night, but tonight he was one of a handful of guys that really stood out to get us the win.”
The win gave Spokane a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series which returns to Spokane for the next three games, if necessary, beginning on Wednesday at the Spokane Arena.
Portland again started fast but Spokane finished stronger for the second straight game. Reid kept his team steady until as it put together a dominant second period and a solid third period which salted the game away.
“I think our group really dug in and was scrappy, especially in game one,” said Sauter. “Tonight it was a little more composed, a little more hard work, a confidence thing. I really liked our second and third periods. I think if our guys continue to get better and continue to play with that maturity, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
The Winterhawks led 1-0 after the first period, once again outplaying the Chiefs over the first 20 minutes, though Spokane had a goal waved off in the period.
Troy Rutkowski had the first goal of the game for the Winterhawks, at the 4:04 mark of the first, when he took a drop pass from Oliver Gabriel and put one in off the crossbar from between the circles.
The Chiefs would respond with their own shot off the crossbar at the 12:57 mark of the first, but this one wasn’t allowed after a review. Tyler Johnson had beaten Winterhawks’ goalie Mac Carruth on a 2-on-1 from the right slot, but the puck bounced back into the crease.
Despite the lost goal, Spokane was living a little lucky after one period, as Portland also hit a post after its first goal and outshot the Chiefs18-10 in the first period.
Spokane would pick up the pace in the second period and dominated play, outshooting Portland 22-9 in the period and leading 2-1 after two.
The Chiefs tied the game at 1-1 just 2:34 into the period on a goal of sheer determination and persistence.
Miller grabbed a loose puck just outside the Portland crease and put it over a stretched-out Portland defenseman who was covering for his goalie. The Chiefs got the goal after hacking away for at least three close-in shots as the Winterhawks were unable to clear the puck.
The Chiefs took a 2-1 lead at the 10:19 mark of the second when Mitch Wahl blasted in a shot from the left point, just in front of his team’s bench. The puck whizzed by Carruth low to the stick side.
Miller gave Spokane a 3-1 lead at the 6:11 mark of the third period on a goal not unlike his first one. Spokane extended its lead in the final minute to 4-1 on an empty-net goal by Blake Gal before Portland added a late goal with just 21 seconds remaining.
Spokane’s Kyle Beach played well while obviously still hurting as he returns from a knee injury. He had two goals in Game 1 and a fight in Game 2 at the end of the first period which Sauter credited with firing up his team.
“I think it says a lot about his character and his willingness to maybe sacrifice a little bit of soreness for the team,” said Sauter.
Ryan Letts (leg injury) missed the game and remains day-to-day.