Chiefs scramble way past Seattle

Twice in one week now, the Spokane Chiefs have proven they can come through in a scramble.

They did it on Monday night against the Seattle Thunderbirds despite a subpar performance – still managing to come up with a four-goal victory in which seven Chiefs scored.

Friday night proved to be no different, as the Chiefs got goals from five players and goalie Mac Engel made 16 saves – including several key saves in the final period – in Spokane’s slugglish 5-4 victory over Seattle in front of an Arena crowd of 7,810.

To be fair, the Chiefs didn’t look quite as tired as they did on Monday.

“I thought they came out with a little bit more jump as well and we maybe had a little bit of a slow start, but we battled through it and came out with a win which is the important thing,” Chiefs forward Steve Kuhn said.

Even with the slow start, forward Dylan Walchuk scored 14 minutes, 59 seconds into the first period, tipping in a shot by Cole Wedman to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. Walchuk has six goals and eight assists in his 15 games in Spokane.

The real trouble for the Chiefs came in the second period, when the Thunderbirds scored three goals on five shots on Engel that period. Colin Jacobs took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play for Seattle, scoring at 4:17, and less than a minute later, former Chief Burke Gallimore gave Seattle a 2-1 lead with a second power-play goal.

The Chiefs regained the lead in the same period after goals from Mike Aviani and Collin Valcourt. Valcourt assisted Aviani – who has scored all 11 of his goals this season against U.S. Division opponents – throwing a puck in from the left board that Aviani popped past Seattle goalie Calvin Pickard at 9:08. Then Valcourt scored, tipping in a shot by Brenden Kichton from the blue line to give Spokane a 3-2 lead.

Seattle was able to tie the score 3-3 before the end of the second, though, when Brendan Rouse scored short-handed at 16:54 while the Chiefs were on the power play. They finished 0 for 5 on the night when skating with a man-advantage.

“For parts of the game we were (better than Monday),” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “I thought we gave up some soft goals tonight to give them life and belief, but you know what? They came hard. Give them credit, they didn’t quit.

“We’ve got to be stronger on pucks and I think we have to be a hungrier team. I don’t think that we showed a whole lot of hunger in the way we played tonight in some areas of the game. Our power play and penalty kill has to be better – you’re not going to beat good teams with the way we performed in those two areas.”

The Thunderbirds took a 4-3 lead early in the third when Branden Troock got a shot past Engel, who came out of the net and went after a loose puck, but hesitated and wasn’t able to get back into position to stop the shot.

Spokane quickly tied the game a minute later when Davis Vandane, who finished with three assists, fired in a shot from the blue line that was redirected by Marek Kalus. Thirty seconds after tying the game, Cole Wedman scored his second goal of the season and the final of the night.

“Well we won – were happy about that,” Nachbaur said. “We didn’t do enough to pull away from them, we let them hang around most of the game and we scrambled again for the victory but a win is a win – we’re not going to complain about that. We know we’ve got to be better tomorrow.”

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