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Chiefs regain form in rout

It didn’t take long for the Spokane Chiefs to show they weren’t going to sleepwalk through a second straight Western Hockey League game.

Anthony Bardaro slapped in a rebound just 1:55 after the opening ceremonies and away they went, rolling to an 8-0 win over the Prince George Cougars before 8,022 fans Friday night at the Arena.

It was easy to tell there were going to be plenty of points to make it a historic night, which happened at 8:11 of the second period when Tyler Johnson picked up an assist for the 15th 100-point campaign in Spokane history.

“It’s something pretty special,” Johnson said after his four-point night put him at 102 points. “I guess it was good to do that (on the power play) because it’s one of the plays that got me a lot of points this year on the power play.”

There was another milestone midway through the third period, when Bardaro’s hat trick goal completed the scoring.

“I just got some good bounces and was a little bit lucky,” said Bardaro, who has 16 goals this season. “That’s it.”

The big nights were the result of a team regaining its focus after an uninspired 5-1 loss to last-place Seattle on Wednesday.

“It’s all a piece of the puzzle with the way we played,” coach Don Nachbaur said of the individual accomplishments. “We played the right way tonight. … We banged in some early goals and we played hard for 60 minutes. Our crowds have become accustomed to that style of play. We didn’t provide that last game and we got back to it.”

It’s also telling that Spokane goalie Mac Engel wasn’t one of the three stars after his third shutout because he only had to make 16 saves. Tanner Mort represented the defense with Johnson and Bardaro, who helped the Chiefs compile 47 shots.

The Chiefs (39-17-4-2, 84 points), one point behind Portland for the top seed, decided the outcome with four goals in the first period. Steve Kuhn and Johnson, with his 46th, which is tied with Chilliwack’s Ryan Howse for the league lead, connected less than two minutes apart before the halfway point and Matt Marantz scored in the final minute.

The second period wasn’t pretty with three fights and an ambushing of Spokane’s Blake Gal by Jesse Forsberg as the Cougars (28-30-2-1, 59 points) lost their composure.

The Chiefs ended up with four man-advantage situations and the top power-play unit in the league scored three times, Brenden Kichton, Jared Cowen and Bardaro, against the No. 3 penalty kill. With Bardaro getting his third goal on the power-play goal midway through the third period, the Chiefs ended up 4 of 7.

On the flipside, the top-ranked penalty killing team blanked PG on six tries.

Johnson’s 100th point came on Kichton’s goal, a tic-tac-toe play that he started with a crisp pass to Mitch Holmberg down low. Holmberg rifled it across the ice to Kichton, diving to the goal for an easy score.

Johnson also assisted on Cowen’s goal and Bardaro’s third, moving him into a tie with Medicine Hat’s Linden Vey for first in the WHL scoring race.