Weary Chiefs grind out ‘ugly’ victory
So, it wasn’t pretty. A win is still a win.
The positives outweighed the negatives for the Spokane Chiefs on Monday night – with two finishes on the power play, a shorthanded goal and a balanced score sheet as seven players scored and the fatigued Chiefs picked up a 7-3 Western Hockey League victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds in front of an Arena crowd of 3,506.
Goalie Eric Williams turned in a solid performance in net, turning aside 31 of 34 shots.
“That’s five games in seven nights – we’re exhausted,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We made some mistakes, but the score is indicative that we deserved it.”
That wasn’t immediately obvious in the first period, even if amidst the turnovers the Chiefs did take a 3-2 lead into the locker room at the first intermission.
After Seattle’s Brendan Rouse cleaned up a rebound at 5 minutes, 4 seconds, Blake Gal scored his 11th goal of the season and Davis Vandane his second to give Spokane a 2-1 lead. Connor Honey scored for Seattle at 15:48, but with 23 seconds remaining in the period, Brenden Kichton scored on the power play and the Chiefs had the 3-2 lead.
“It was ugly, for me, but the guys did the right things to score,” Nachbaur said. “The turnovers – I mean, we’re better than that. But that’s what happens when you’re fatigued – you turn the puck over and you’re not quick mentally.”
After a scoreless second period, Marek Kalus scored a power-play goal 1:44 into the third to give Spokane a 4-2 lead. Justin Hickman scored Seattle’s final goal at 8:17, but by then the Chiefs had awaken and, unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, their best was yet to come.
Less than two minutes after Hickman made it a one-goal game, Darren Kramer buried the rebound of a Mitch Holmberg shot.
The most skilled play of the night was Connor Chartier’s short-handed goal at 13:02. Chartier intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and found Mike Aviani in the right lane as the two worked together on a give-and-go. Aviani made a perfect pass to Chartier on the left post and Chartier one-timed the puck past Seattle goalie Calvin Pickard.
Fittingly, Aviani also had a quality goal of his own – Spokane’s final goal of the night – on a pass from Dylan Walchuk at 16:37.
“We wish we had (those goals) earlier in the game to get some breathing room, but when the game was on the line, we came up with it,” Nachbaur said.
“We buckled at times, but we didn’t end up breaking,” Nachbaur added. “We scored shorthanded, we scored two power play goals, we scored key goals in the game to win it and that’s a positive sign, because we had a tough go this last week.”
Spokane will now have four days to rest before hosting Seattle again on Friday night and Tri-City on Saturday.
Chiefs forward Dominik Uher was named the WHL Player of the Week after the import scored six goals and had three assists in four games last week, including a four-goal performance in Spokane’s 5-2 win at Kamloops. Uher has 11 goals, 15 assists and is plus-20 in his last 16 games. … With his goal in the first period, Kichton became the all-time leading career goal-scorer among Chiefs defensemen with 41 – passing Sean Gillam (40).