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 Game 2 of the teams’ Western Hockey League playoff series Sunday afternoon at the Rose Garden.
“(Reid) has been extremely solid for us, especially over the last two months,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “(The series opener) 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 Wednesday at the Spokane Arena.
Portland again started well, but Spokane finished stronger for the second straight game. Reid kept his team steady until it put together a dominant second period and a solid third period that salted the game away.
“I think our group really dug in and was scrappy, especially in Game 1,” Sauter said. “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, 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 responded 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.
Spokane was living a little lucky after one period, as Portland also hit a post after its first goal and outshot the Chiefs 18-10 in the first period. Spokane picked 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. 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.
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.
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 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 the opener and a fight in Game 2 at the end of the first period that 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,” Sauter said.
Ryan Letts (leg injury) missed the game and remains day-to-day.
Chiefs 4, Winterhawks 2
First Period—1, Portland, Rutkowski 1 (Gabriel), 4:04. Second Period— 2, Spokane, Miller 1 (Marantz, Kuhn), 2:34. 3, Spokane, Wahl 1 (un), 10:19. Third Period—4, Miller 2 (Marantz, Koper), 6:11. 5, Spokane, Gal 1 (Wahl, Koper) (en) 19:08. 6, Portland, Ponich 1 (Carruth), 19:39.
Power-play Opp.—Spokane 0 of 3, Portland 0 of 3. Saves—Spokane, Reid 17-10-12—39. Portland, Carruth 10-20-6—36. A—5,143.