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Chiefs play their style in rallying past Kootenay

Spokane Chiefs captain Darren Kramer was questioning karmic retribution earlier this week. He wondered if the goals would come and if winning would follow.

He got his answer on Saturday night as Spokane’s team game aligned in the Chiefs’ 3-2 Western Hockey League victory over the Kootenay Ice (36-25-4-4) in front of 8,783 fans at the Arena.

“I was thinking maybe I’d created some bad karma for myself,” Kramer said. “I thought this was our biggest win of the season. It was a group effort, and after (Friday) night’s (loss to Tri-City) we looked at the good things we did and brought them to tonight’s game.”

Not only did the Chiefs bring the goods over from Friday night, they brought them for a full 60 minutes. They displayed solid puck management and stuck to their style of play, which calls for working the puck inside, crashing the net and finding the rebounds.

Trailing 1-0 late in the second period – after Kootenay’s Joey Leach scored a power-play goal in the first – the Chiefs earned a one-man advantage when the Ice’s Jagger Dirk picked up a holding minor.

Power-play goals have been sparse for Spokane – it’s ranked 19th in the 22-team WHL – but Marek Kalus was in position near the crease to push a rebound past Ice goalie Nathan Lieuwen at 19:48. Dominik Uher and Brenden Kichton recorded assists on the goal.

“We looked better tonight,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said of Spokane’s 1-for-4 power-play effort. “We’ve still got to get better at it.”

“Marek’s goal was a great visual for us,” Kramer said. “Those are the areas we’re going to score.”

Tied 1-1 in the third period, Kootenay regained the lead when Elgin Pearce scored at the 2:23 mark. Instead of allowing the goal to break their momentum, the Chiefs pushed back – and were rewarded for doing so when Kramer found the back of the net at 13:38 for his 21st goal of the season.

Less than 30 seconds later Collin Valcourt scored the winner.

“We won the way we had to tonight – in a playoff-type scenario,” Nachbaur said. “I think our guys scored some hard goals, but we did it the right way – we got to the paint … and we didn’t lose the belief when we went down by a goal.

“We thought we could come back simply because of the work we did in the first two periods.”

Valcourt’s goal wasn’t the end of Spokane’s work for the night. With 5 minutes remaining, the Ice attacked the Spokane net in a scramble that forced several Chiefs to lay their bodies on the ice and block shots.

“Our guys didn’t stand up,” Nachbaur said. “That was the desperation we needed to win. We had guys that didn’t lay down on Friday night, and tonight you saw five guys trying to keep it out of the net – six, including the goalie. We fought for it.”

In fighting for the win, the Chiefs (36-23-5-4) stayed tied at 81 points in the Western Conference standings with first-round playoff opponent Vancouver (38-26-2-3). The Chiefs – with a game in hand – and Giants are battling for home-ice advantage in the upcoming best-of-7 series.

Spokane has four games remaining in the regular season – two at home and two on the road – which will all be played in the upcoming week.