Tanner Mort isn’t a goal scorer. He didn’t score a single goal last season, and he will probably never be a goal scorer.
Doesn’t matter. When the Spokane Chiefs needed the veteran defenseman from Post Falls to step up on Saturday night, he did – in a big way.
Mort’s goal late in the third period after a much-needed timeout called by Spokane coach Don Nachbaur helped the Chiefs put the finishing touches on Lethbridge as Spokane beat the Hurricanes 4-2 in Western Hockey League play in front of 5,342 fans at the Arena.
“We were scrambling a little in the third but we battled,” said Chiefs goalie Eric Williams, who finished with 27 saves to improve to 3-0 this season. “We bent but didn’t break.”
Instead, Nachbaur called the time out and sent his veterans onto the ice.
Mike Aviani won the faceoff, got a clean pass out and Mort threw the shot on net that got past Hurricanes goalie Ty Rimmer – who the Chiefs are very familiar with.
Rimmer was the starting goalie last season for the Tri-City Americans and was dealt to Lethbridge in the offseason. On Saturday, the overage netminder made 39 saves as the Chiefs managed to put 43 shots on net.
“I think we played the right style and got some pucks to the net, we just didn’t find those second or third opportunities … but the bottom line is we got the puck to the net 40 times,” said Nachbaur.
The Chiefs took a 3-1 lead in the opening period with goals from Mitch Holmberg (his eighth of the season), Todd Fiddler (who scored from the low slot off a rebound of his own shot) and Colin Valcourt.
Heading into the night, the Chiefs were ranked second in the league on the power play and also second on the penalty kill – and they continued to show why their special teams are special. On Saturday Spokane was 2 for 4 on the power play and killed all three penalties they faced.
“We’re happy with the win,” said Nachbaur. “We know there are parts to our game we have to get better at. I think we gave up too many chances – we’ve got to tighten up in our zone – but I like the effort from the guys.
“I thought we were buckling late in the third and called the timeout, and our old guys went out there and got the job done .We got right back on the ice … and get a goal from an unlikely source. But that’s what good teams are made of. Guys that step up. And he did.”
The Chiefs now head north to play a pair of road games – Wednesday at Kelowna and Friday at Kamloops – before returning home to host Vancouver for their second meeting of the season with the Giants.
This will be Spokane’s longest road trip of the season so far – something Nachbaur isn’t necessarily looking forward to with three games in four nights next week, even if he was smiling when he gave his answer.
“I would rather do it at home,” Nachbaur said.
Colton Schell had two goals and an assist to lead Nelson to a 7-4 win over Spokane at Nelson, B.C.
Tim Schmidt had two goals and an assist for the Braves.
Spokane fell to 3-5-1-0 and Nelson improved to 4-3-1-0.
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