You’ll hear the words “go to the body” echoing off of boards in rinks around the Western Hockey League. Anywhere there is hockey, really.
But Spokane Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz had a more appropriate and time-sensitive phrase for the Chiefs to take into consideration following their road loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Tuesday: Use your heads.
Those weren’t Speltz’s specific words, but after watching Spokane lose 6-4 at Seattle as a direct result of turnovers in the second period, the message was certainly implied – first in a postgame radio chat with the team’s play-by-play announcer, and again in a phone interview on Thursday.
“As a whole we have got to be more responsible with the puck,” Speltz said. “We gave up three goals in that period because of untimely and costly turnovers. It’s about being smart, and it’s overused and cliché but we have to manage the puck.”
The Chiefs (6-3-0-0, 12 points, third in U.S. Division) get another chance at the Thunderbirds when they host Seattle tonight at the Arena. Spokane did play better in the third Tuesday, but a questionable penalty called on captain/defenseman Brenden Kichton put Seattle on a 5-on-3 power play and the T-birds scored.
“That was a good period for us, but then you factor in the phantom 5-on-3 and there’s the game,” Speltz said. “The problem there is we left it up to the refs, essentially. If we’re responsible like we need to be in the second, we don’t have that problem in the third.”
With it being so early in the WHL season, the Chiefs hope it’s a problem they don’t have for long.
Holmberg passed: Chiefs leading scorer Mitch Holmberg (10 goals) is no longer the leading goal scorer in the WHL.
Kamloops’ JC Lipon has scored 11 for the Canadian Hockey League’s top-ranked Blazers and leads the WHL overall with 27 points. Lipon’s teammate, Colin Smith, is second overall with 23 points.
Calgary’s Brooks Macek and Kelowna’s Myles Bell are tied for third overall with 19 points, and Holmberg is tied for fourth overall with Moose Jaw’s Sam Fioretti at 18. Holmberg, Fioretti and Saskatoon’s Josh Nicholls have scored a WHL second-best 10 goals each.
Holmberg’s numbers this season have been impressive in their own right, but are even moreso considering the winger scored a career-high 27 goals in 66 games for Spokane last season – not including the 11 he scored in 13 playoff games.
Engel headed back: It’s been about a week since the Chiefs traded 19-year-old goalie Mac Engel to Prince George for a fourth-round pick in the Bantam draft, but it will only be one more day until the netminder returns to Spokane.
Engel, who was 42-28-3-4 with Spokane, will be in town while Spokane hosts the Cougars on Saturday and is expected to play against his former team.
The reunion doesn’t end there. Spokane travels north to play a pair of games in Prince George on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Around the WHL: Three WHL teams remained ranked in this week’s CHL Top Ten – Kamloops (9-0-0-1), which defeated Spokane 5-1 last Friday, is ranked first among the 60 teams in the CHL (WHL, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). Prince Albert (7-2-0-0) is ranked seventh, while Portland (7-3-1-0) of the WHL’s U.S. Division is eighth. The Chiefs and Winterhawks don’t meet for the first time this season until Nov. 10. … Portland goalie Mac Carruth returned to the Winterhawks from AHL camp, and after going 2-0-0-0 in his first games this season earned CHL Goaltender of the Week honors with one shutout and a .963 save percentage.