Last place – OK, technically, a three-way tie for eighth in the 10-team Western Conference – didn’t sit well with the Spokane Chiefs.
Even though the basement view wasn’t ugly, not with two teams one point ahead and three more just two up, they did something about it.
Getting the first of his three goals from captain Jared Cowen just 59 seconds into the game and their second goal 8 seconds later, the Chiefs whipped Kamloops 10-1 before 4,455 fans Wednesday night and leap-frogged the Blazers in the Western Hockey League standings.
That allowed the Chiefs (12-9-1-1, 26 points) to go from last to fifth, but that is misleading as well. The two teams they were tied for eighth with, Kelowna and Prince George also won for 26 points, joining Everett. In fact, nine teams are separated by four points with the Chiefs headed to Kamloops on Friday before playing Kelowna at the Arena on Saturday.
It wasn’t a good start for Kamloops (12-12-0-1, 25 points) when the team with the worst penalty kill in the league (73.2 percent) wound up a man short just 45 seconds into the game. Cowen started the proceedings by gliding in from the left point, taking a pass from Levko Koper and wristing a shot in the top right corner for a power-play goal, his fourth.
Off the ensuing faceoff, which Brady Brassart won, Brendon Kichton hit Anthony Bardaro down the right side and he beat Cam Lanigan for his eighth goal. Bardaro had scored 7 seconds after Blake Gal on Sunday in Portland, tying the franchise record.
Lax defense in their own end cost the Chiefs as Brendan Ranford cleaned up a loose puck for his 22nd goal, best in the league.
But Koper broke up a pass at the blue line, pounced on the puck and fed Tyler Johnson for a 2-on-1 short-handed goal, his 13th score, at 7:40. Steve Kuhn capped the first period with his fourth goal after he gathered in a touch pass by Matt Marantz at center ice to make it 4-1.
The Chiefs didn’t add to the lead in the second period but didn’t give the Blazers much of a chance, outshooting them 13-3.
The third period was a shooting gallery.
Defenseman Brenden Kichton got his fourth on a power-play goal at 49 seconds. Mike Aviani scored his fourth at 3:01, then Kenton Miller notched his sixth at 5 minutes, making the Chiefs 3 for 3 on the power play. Cowen scored at 5:58, followed by Matt Marantz with his third at 10:40. Cowen got his hat trick at 11:35.
After Cowen’s second goal, Lanigan was pulled and 16-year Troy Tromblay made his WHL debut.
The shots ended up 41-16.