Down 2-0 early, Chiefs battle back vs. Hitmen
The Calgary Hitmen have made a living pushing teams around and dominating on the road.
When the Spokane Chiefs fell behind Calgary 2-0 at home Wednesday night, it looked like the Hitmen were ready to add another chapter to their successful season.
Instead, the Chiefs scored the next four goals and held on during the final minutes for a 4-3 Western Hockey League win at the Arena.
Dylan Walchuk and Todd Fiddler totaled one goal and one assist apiece, Mitch Holmberg added two assists and Carter Proft recorded his first winning goal as the Chiefs (33-22-2-0, 68 points) tied Victoria for fourth place in the Western Conference.
“Anytime you get down, you have to battle back,” said Chiefs goalkeeper Eric Williams, who made 31 saves. “My job is to keep the team in it and give us a chance.”
“We played the right way,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We didn’t have any glaring turnovers, our goalie was solid tonight, it was good team play and there was a lot of effort.”
Calgary (37-17-1-3) entered with a 21-8-0-1 record on the road and a league-high 1,096 penalty minutes. The Hitmen and Chiefs battered one another for the first two periods, combining for 13 penalties for 48 minutes, but Calgary was forced to play with more finesse for the final 20 minutes while trailing 3-2.
The Chiefs disputed Calgary’s first score, Brady Brassart’s 23rd goal of the season at 8:27 of the first. Spokane argued that the Hitmen interfered with Williams by knocking Spokane’s Brenden Kichton into him.
“There should have been a call, but they scored and we battled back,” Williams said.
Not before Calgary’s second goal, however, as Cody Sylvester notched his 31st of the season on a power play at 1:59 of the second.
Walchuk’s rebound goal at 9:31, assisted by Holmberg and Fiddler, started the rally. Kichton slammed home the tying goal at 12:24 on a 5-on-3 power play, and Proft got the go-ahead score on a sizzling shot at 18:49.
“We scored the one power-play goal and that got us back in the hockey game at 2-2,” Nachbaur said. “I thought we built from that. Carter Proft’s goal was a real ‘believer’ for us. It gave us some belief in our locker room heading into the third.”
Fiddler’s 37th goal of the season, which tied him for third in the league, extended the lead to 4-2 with 9:03 left.
“We’ve had some slow starts, but I think we’re starting to clean that up a bit,” Fiddler said.
Williams and the Chiefs stood up after Victor Rask scored with 2:11 left for a 4-3 game. Calgary pulled goalie Chris Driedger but couldn’t net the tie.
Calgary had its four-game winning streak snapped and ended a nine-game road swing.
The Chiefs play Friday at Everett, Saturday at Tri-City and Monday at Portland.
Their next home game is Feb. 22 against the Eastern Conference’s top team, the Edmonton Oil Kings (41-12-2-3). The Chiefs have seven home games left on their regular-season schedule.