Spokane shuts out WHL’s hottest team for franchise’s 1,000th win
Few of the 1,000 wins in Spokane Chiefs franchise history could have been as satisfying.
Riding a season-high four-game losing streak and facing the Western Hockey League’s hottest team, the Chiefs dominated from start to finish Wednesday night while overwhelming the Kelowna Rockets 5-0 at the Arena.
Eric Williams stopped 33 shots for his third shutout of the season, and Mike Aviani and Todd Fiddler had one goal and two assists apiece as the Chiefs recorded the 1,000th victory in their history.
Kelowna (40-11-3-1) hadn’t been blanked since Sept. 28, its third game of the season. The Rockets had won 23 of their previous 26 games and hadn’t lost in regulation since Dec. 16 at Calgary.
“I thought Eric Williams played unreal tonight,” said Aviani, whose goal gave the Chiefs a 3-0 first-period lead before he assisted on a pair of second-period goals. “He made some big saves for us.”
“I saw the puck well and was able to make a couple of nice saves when the game was close,” said Williams, who also shut out Everett on Nov. 3 and Kootenay on Dec. 28. “Then our team battled and kind of put them away.”
The Chiefs (31-20-2-0, 64 points) desperately needed a breakout effort, having lost eight of their last 11 games while allowing Tri-City (65 points) and Victoria (64) to move up the standings and vie for fourth place in the Western Conference. The top four teams will host first-round playoff openers.
“We haven’t played solid hockey for quite some time,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “Tonight we established something in our game, getting on the other team, forcing turnovers, and by the same token getting pucks to the net.”
The win allowed Spokane to finish tied in its four-game season series with the Rockets. The Chiefs’ 6-4 victory at Kelowna on Oct. 10 was the last time the Rockets have lost at home, a span of 23 games.
Fiddler assisted on Spokane’s first goal, at 5:29 of the first period, as Riley Whittingham notched his third score of the season and his second winner.
Fiddler also assisted on Aviani’s goal before giving Spokane a 4-0 lead with his 36th goal of the season at 9:33 of the second period. Fiddler, with nine goals in his last 12 games, is tied for second in WHL goals, one behind Portland’s Brendan Leipsic.
The Chiefs play at Kootenay on Friday before hosting Tri-City on Saturday and Victoria on Sunday in key games for the playoff chase.
The Chiefs recalled defenseman Adam Power from the Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Power appeared in eight games for the Chiefs during the first part of the season. … The Chiefs recently added left wing Markson Bechtold to their roster. Bechtold was Spokane’s third-round selection in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft. … Spokane’s injury list includes Tanner Mort, Tyler King, Alessio Bertaggia, Connor Chartier, Jackson Playfair and Jason Fram. Bertaggia is expected back in 2-3 weeks; Fram in 3-4.
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