Chiefs lock down Kelowna Rockets for WHL victory

The Kelowna Rockets rang a shot off the goal post a minute into their game against the Spokane Chiefs Saturday night, but that was the only noise they made.

The Chiefs had three goals and 15 shots before Kelowa hit goalie Mac Engel and went on to register a convincing 5-1 win before 5,769 fans at the Arena.

“Sometimes you need a break because that could have been a demoralizing moment,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We caught a break but I thought we were pretty stifling in the first period. That’s learning to win.”

Stifling might be an understatement against a good team that that came in 3-1. It was a solid at start to a six-game homestand, especially coming off two disappointing road losses.

“It’s the way we have to play to be successful,” Nachbaur said. “It’s not that we didn’t know that but we were looking for other types of games. I think it came to a head in Kamloops, we were embarrassed (6-4 loss Friday night). We had a good meeting and I think the guys were real committed to what we were asking them to do. We put in a 60-minute effort with structure and lots of compete and hard work.

“To me it’s called committed hockey.”

Veterans Mitch Holmberg and Anthony Bardaro had the big games for the Chiefs (2-2-0-1) with two goals apiece. It was the first for Holmberg.

“Finally. I’ve had the chances lately, they haven’t been going on,” said Holmberg, who had two front teeth knocked out in the home opener last Saturday. “Tonight one of my key focuses was just hit the net. I got it on net there a couple times and got a lucky bounce. It was nice to see it go in.”

Bardaro has seven goals after adding two more on the power play as the Chiefs went 2-8. All but one of his goals have come with the man advantage and he also assisted on both Holmberg goals.

“It’s fun to play with Bards, he sees the ice really well,” Homberg said. “Same with (Darren) Kramer, he’s a hard-nosed guy. When you play with him it makes the game easier and this year he’s finding the net.”

But it was the youngsters that got the Chiefs going. Jarid Hauptman, in his third game after a call-up because of injuries, fended off a defenseman as they skated behind the net and got the puck out front to attacking defenseman Jason Fram, who slipped the puck past Jordon Cooke at 7:31. It was the second goal in as many nights for the 16-year old rookie.

Even more impressive was Fram’s work on the other end, paired with another 16-year old, Tyler King.

“At first I had a few nerves,” Fram said. “That’s good, it means you’re ready to go. After the first shift or so, you just have to play your game. He’s a good player, a first-round pick. It helps playing with good players, it makes it easier for you.”

Holmberg had his first goal at 11:18 of the first period with Bardaro scoring 2 minutes later. Holmberg scored 39 seconds into the second period, Bardaro finished it with 5:55 to play in the game. Cody Chikie got Kamloops on the board at 14:15 of the second period.

The Chiefs had an 18-3 shot advantage in the first period and finished at 45-12.

Spokane has three home games next week, beginning Wednesday with Brandon.

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