Given enough chances something had to give and, for the Spokane Chiefs, it was the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Dominik Uher had an easy conversion of a Steven Kuhn pass with 3 minutes, 42 seconds to play to rally the Chiefs to a 4-3 win before 3,214 fans at the Arena Wednesday night.
“Steven Kuhn made an unbelievable play,” Uher said after his first goal of the season. “It was an awesome move and pretty much back door, empty net. It was pretty easy for me just to tap it in.
“It’s been kind of frustrating, so many chances and nothing goes in. Finally it goes in and I’m happy. Hopefully, it keeps going.”
But the story was more about how many chances the Chiefs failed to cash in, outshooting the visitors 33-23.
“We just have to bear down,” Uher said. “It’s kind of like sometimes there’s bad luck, but if you keep going something has to go in eventually.”
Uher capped a three-goal rally that started with Anthony Bardaro’s eighth goal, his seventh on the power play, at 13:22 of the second period. He deflected a shot from Davis Vandane past Corbin Boss. Late in the period, Chiefs captain Darren Kramer notched his fifth goal, unassisted, on a wrap-around into an empty net.
But otherwise, the Chiefs (3-2-0-1, seven points) whiffed on several opportunities, including a bundle on the power play despite going 2 for 5.
“I don’t need to comment on that,” Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. “It’s natural talent, it’s gripping sticks too tight, not releasing the puck quick enough. I’ve had a lot of 50-goal scorers in my time to know what a goal-scorer looks like. That’s a guy that touches it and it’s gone. We overanalyze the situation too much. Hitting (opposing players) is just a result of not doing things quick enough.”
And that, he said, starts in practice.
“I didn’t think we worked hard,” he said. “We were really sloppy. It’s the way we’ve been practicing and it’s led to the way they’ve played in the games. Our guys have to get better, form better habits, to become better players. It’s the responsibility of the players … to carry the momentum from practice to the games.”
Nachbaur did have a pat on the back for rookie goalie Luke Lee-Knight. In his second Western Hockey League game and first at home, he made the saves necessary to allow his team to come back for his first win.
“Not too many people get to have that opportunity. It’s great,” Lee-Knight said. “I’m always a little nervous. I think that’s a good thing for me. I was a lot less nervous than I was in the last game.”
He brushed off giving up a goal just 69 seconds in. Ryan Pulock’s shot from the point was blocked by a defenseman, but the puck went right to Mark Stone in the right circle and he buried it in the open net.
Brenden Kichton tied it for the Chiefs at 2:37 with his first goal, a tap-in from Kuhn on the power play. Brandon countered that with a power-play goal by Jason Swyripa at 7:44.
A second power-play goal, by Brenden Walker, made it 3-1 Brandon at 6:15 of the second.
“I’m not going to complain about the win,” Nachbaur said. “Some you’re going to win ugly and today it was not a pretty win, but it was effective. We need to build some confidence in the system.”
Brandon (4-2-0-1, nine points), playing the first of seven road games in 11 days, came in converting 41.7 percent on the power play and improved that (2 for 3).
The Chiefs host Prince Albert on Friday.
First Period—1, Brandon, Stone 6 (Pulock), 1:09. 2, Spokane, Kichton 1 (Gal, Kuhn), 2:37 (pp). 3, Brandon, Swyripa 2 (Mraz, Bertaggia), 7:44 (pp). Second Period—4, Brandon, Walker 2 (Stone, Pulock), 6:15 (pp). 5, Spokane, Bardaro 8 (Vandane, Uher), 13:22 (pp). 6, Spokane, Kramer 5 18:33. Third Period—7, Spokane, Uher 1 (Gal, Kuhn), 16:18. Power-play Opp.—Brandon 2 of 3, Spokane 2 of 5. Saves—Brandon, Boes 11-13-5—29. Spokane, Lee-Knight 8-7-5—20. A—3,241.
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