One trend ended and another continued as the Spokane Chiefs closed out a perfect seven-game homestand with a 6-1 spanking over the Victoria Royals Wednesday night.
Unlike the previous five games of the current streak, which kept Spokane unbeaten in eight games at home to start the Western Hockey League season, the Chiefs scored first and kept right on rolling, much to the delight of the 3,628 fans in the Arena.
“It was a lot different this time,” Spokane defenseman Reid Gow said. “You get a lead, you’re more confident to make plays. It’s a lot easier to move the puck (and) play the game right, because you’re up.”
This time Mitch Holmberg, with his fourth goal, and Marek Kalus, with his third, scored 34 seconds apart before the game was 4 minutes old.
After Steven Hodges notched his sixth goal for the Royals midway through the period, Dominik Uher got his fifth and rookie Connor Chartier his first – 40 seconds apart – to close out the first period. That gave all four lines a goal in the opening 20 minutes against 17-year-old Victoria goalie Jared Rathjen in his first start.
“We just came out a lot more prepared this time,” said Chartier, who had a goal in the last game of last season. “Everyone was ready to go. (Coach) Don (Nachbaur) was getting on us for slow starts. Everyone knew they had to come prepared.”
Victoria, which was the Chilliwack Bruins last year, was coming off a 5-4 win at Tri-City
“It’s the first time this year the schedule has played in our favor, where we played a team that played the night before,” Nachbaur said. “We pounced on them, came out of the first period with a 4-1 lead and that’s a tough mountain to climb.
“We had the chances, we scored. We caught a few breaks along the way, but we did a lot of good things, too.”
Kalus had the lone goal of the second period, a pretty tic-tac-toe play with Jarid Hauptman and Mike Aviani. Collin Valcourt picked up the only goal in the final frame.
On defense, the Chiefs (8-2-0-1, 17 points) smothered the Royals (8-7-0-0, 16), who got just 13 shots.
“We were playing the right way,” Gow said of the defensemen and forwards. “Defense is always our pride. We hold teams to low shots and low goals because we work so hard.”
Nachbaur singled out the top line of Steven Kuhn between Uher and Blake Gal.
“(Kuhn’s) line doesn’t show up much on the score sheet, but they did an excellent job against their first line, really stymied them,” he said, adding the two young lines, which accounted for four goals, had another strong game. “That’s depth.”
“It’s definitely nice to hear,” Chartier said. “You just have to go out there and work as hard as you can every time. It’s nice that he recognizes it and puts you out a little bit more.”
The Chiefs play at Tri-City on Saturday and then have a week off before the Americans come to Spokane.