Chiefs top T-birds for third straight win
One way to look at it is that Liam Stewart has been limited to three goals in his last 13 games.
Another way to look at it is that all three goals provided the winning margin for the Spokane Chiefs.
Stewart’s 10th goal of the season, early in the second period, snapped a 1-all tie Wednesday and boosted the Chiefs to their third consecutive victory, 4-1 over the struggling Seattle Thunderbirds at the Arena.
Stewart also had the winning goal during Spokane’s 4-3 win at Seattle on Tuesday and on Dec. 5, when he had the second score during a 4-1 win at Saskatoon. Spokane is 7-1 against Seattle this season, with seven consecutive wins.
“I can only remember the last two goals,” Stewart said after the Chiefs snapped a three-game losing streak at home.
“I can’t remember the one before. It’s been a while.”
Collin Valcourt and Connor Chartier assisted on Stewart’s goal, a rebound at 3 minutes and 16 seconds of the second period.
“Luckily, it popped out in front and I backhanded it in,” Stewart said. “I didn’t know it had gone in until I saw Valcourt celebrate.”
Chiefs goaltender Eric Williams stood tall after that, finishing with 30 saves for his 21st win of the season.
Spokane, playing its first home game since Dec. 29, appears to have righted the ship after a skid of six losses in eight games. All three wins, however, came against Seattle (16-23-2-1), which has dropped 12 consecutive games since a 5-1 win at Everett on Dec. 7.
“The game we played last night I wasn’t happy with, although we got good results, and the same thing tonight,” said Don Nachbaur, who coached his first game at the Arena since Nov. 24 because of his time with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. “Where we were before Christmas and where we are today are night and day.”
The first period ended with a 1-all tie as Seattle outshot the Chiefs 13-10. Mitch Holmberg scored his 25th goal of the season, just 1:18 in, but the Thunderbirds’ Alexander Delnov answered with a power-play goal with 8:34 left in the period.
The Chiefs turned up the heat in the second period, outshooting Seattle 17-7 and taking the lead for good thanks to Stewart.
Mike Aviani’s 21st goal of the season, with 11:02 left in the game, gave Spokane some breathing room and a 3-1 lead. Carter Proft added a goal on a penalty shot after being hooked from behind by Brendan Rouse on a breakaway.
“I thought our second period and third period were a lot better than the first,” Nachbaur said. “I didn’t like our first-period effort. We got outworked and outcompeted on every shift and I feel we were fortunate to come out at 1-1.”
The Chiefs improved to 27-13-1-0 (55 points) and 14-5-0-0 at home.
The Chiefs’ road becomes more difficult on Friday, when they play at Western Conference-leading Portland, which has won 12 consecutive games.
Spokane’s next home game is Saturday against Kootenay. The teams split two games in late December.
The Chiefs acquired 17-year-old defenseman Stewart Coyle from the Vancouver Giants in exchange for a sixth-round selection in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. Coyle, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound native of Sicamous, B.C., appeared in 17 games this season with the Giants. The WHL’s trade deadline is today. … The Chiefs will appear on two “Friday Night Ice” broadcasts on Root Sports this season. Root will broadcast Spokane’s game at Kamloops on Feb. 1 and its home game against Everett on March 8.