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Spokane Chiefs creep closer to top of division

Johnson’s 31st goal helps dispatch Portland

PORTLAND – The Spokane Chiefs took another big step Wednesday on their steady climb toward first place.

Tyler Johnson and Dominik Uher paced the Chiefs with one goal and one assist apiece as Spokane defeated Portland 4-3 in Western Hockey League play at Memorial Coliseum to cut the host Winterhawks’ first-place lead to two points.

Spokane won its season-best seventh consecutive game to improve to 25-10-3-2 (55 points) in the Western Conference’s U.S. Division.

Portland (27-13-0-3, 57 points) has lost four consecutive games to the Chiefs. Spokane leads the season series 4-2.

The Chiefs’ last regulation loss was Dec. 17 at Everett.

Johnson and Corbin Baldwin set up Uher’s 10th goal of the season in the second minute.

Uher returned the favor, with the help of Davis Vandane, by feeding Johnson for a shorthanded goal at 7:54 of the second period.

Johnson leads the league with 31 goals and five short-handed goals.

The Winterhawks halved the lead with Joe Morrow’s third goal of the season, at 13:41 of the second period.

Spokane increased its lead to 3-1 with 1:48 left in the period as Baldwin and Vandane assisted on Blake Gal’s 12th goal of the season.

The Chiefs’ Jared Cowen, in his first game back since playing in the World Juniors Championship for Canada, assisted on Brenden Kichton’s goal early in the third period.

The 4-1 Chiefs edge held up until Riley Boychuk and Sven Bartschi scored 31 seconds apart for the Winterhawks.

But Chiefs goaltender James Reid held off all challenges in the final 7 minutes, including the last 1 1/2 minutes when Portland pulled its goalie.

Reid made 29 saves to earn his 25th win, the second-best total in the league.

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