April 3, 2013 in Sports

Bertaggia master of big splash

Chiefs’ offense comes in waves behind speedster
By The Spokesman-Review
 
WHL Conference semifinals

East

(1) Edmonton vs. (7) Medicine Hat

(3) Calgary vs. (4) Red Deer

West

Qualified: (1) Portland, (3) Kamloops, (4) Spokane; Matchups, TBD

Alessio Bertaggia’s time with the Spokane Chiefs will be short and sweet.

The Chiefs acquired the 19-year-old left wing in a trade with the Brandon Wheat Kings on Jan. 10, but he’s not expected back for his 20-year-old season.

Once the Chiefs’ postseason is over, Bertaggia will prepare to join EV Zug, a professional team in his home country.

“I’ve signed a pro contract with a team in Switzerland,” Bertaggia said. “I think I’m supposed to be with them next year, so I probably won’t be back unless something special happens.”

Special things can happen when Bertaggia is on the ice. He scored a team-best eight points during the Chiefs’ win over the Tri-City Americans in the first round of the Western Hockey League Western Conference playoffs.

Bertaggia had two goals and six assists in the five games, including a crucial insurance goal with 4 minutes, 51 seconds left in Game 5.

Spokane will begin the best-of-seven conference semifinals Friday and Saturday at Kamloops or Portland. Games 3 and 4 will be Tuesday and Wednesday in Spokane.

The Chiefs traded forward Marek Kalus, prospect Rhett Gardner and two draft picks to Brandon to boost their offensive production with Bertaggia.

Bertaggia scored twice in his Chiefs debut, Jan. 16 at Kelowna. Two days later, in his Chiefs home debut, he had two assists before suffering an upper-body injury late in the game.

“I was very motivated to come in (to Spokane) and show what I could do,” Bertaggia said. “It turned out I had to do it later.”

The injury sidelined Bertaggia for four weeks. During that stretch, the Chiefs lost seven of 12 games.

“I was supporting the guys as much as I could, and I think we did a pretty good job of getting me back in shape,” Bertaggia said.

Bertaggia made a big splash in his return on Feb. 15, scoring two goals during a 6-3 win at Everett.

With Bertaggia back, the Chiefs finished the regular season by winning 11 of 15 games. Bertaggia had 10 goals during that stretch, including a hat trick March 8 at home against Everett.

“We knew when we got him that he was a world-class player with world-class speed,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “When he uses his speed, he’s tough to contain. He’s tough to shut down. He was a catalyst in (playoff) games where he gave us that offense we needed.”

“The only way I can influence the team is by playing my game and bringing a lot of energy to the team,” said the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Bertaggia. “I use my speed and try to throw my body around as much as I can. It’s not a big body, but I try to do my best.”

Bertaggia speaks five languages, including Italian, his first language. His father’s parents immigrated to Switzerland from Italy.

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