Holmberg, Kichton help Chiefs cool Ice
Mitch Holmberg and Brenden Kichton said they don’t count their points, but the Spokane Chiefs are at their best when they can count on their points.
Holmberg accounted for two goals and one assist and Kichton added one goal and two assists to carry the Chiefs to a 4-2 home win Saturday night that snapped the Kootenay Ice’s seven-game winning streak.
Holmberg, with his 26th and 27th goals, closed within one of team leader Todd Fiddler.
“We don’t really look at goals,” said Holmberg, who is also third on the team with 49 points. “It’s kind of a friendly competition. It’s in the room, but it’s not a big deal to us.”
Kichton, the Chiefs’ captain, took over the team lead with 53 points, two more than Fiddler.
“I get out there and do my best to help the team win and let the chips fall where they may,” Kichton said. “(Scoring) is not on my mind. It’s getting the victories.”
Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur appreciated the effort of his two veterans after Spokane (28-14-1-0, 57 points) earned its fourth win in its last five Western Hockey League games and improved to 15-5-0-0 at the Arena.
“At this level, if your best guys aren’t your best guys, you don’t have a chance at winning,” Nachbaur said.
Holmberg almost had a hat trick, but he had a first-period score waived off for interference with Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski.
“It’s the right call at that time of the game, but obviously it’s upsetting to see it called off,” Holmberg said.
Holmberg got the goal back later in the first period on the only power-play opportunity of the game for either team. Nineteen seconds after Skapski was whistled for hooking, Holmberg gave Spokane a 1-0 lead at 14:46 with assists from Kichton and Blake Gal.
Although the teams engaged in a couple of fights that resulted in 5-minute penalties, no other penalties were called, which Nachbaur found unusual.
“Especially after (Friday) night’s game (at Portland), which was just a penalty-fest,” Nachbaur said. “I guess it hinges on how the guys in the stripes see the game, but it was played the right way tonight.”
Kichton’s goal, set up by Holmberg and Adam Helewka, came with 1:26 left in the first period. The captain said he has accepted responsibility for getting the Chiefs back on track after they lost six of eight games from Dec. 8 to Jan. 4.
“You have 26 guys here you have to look out for and you also have to look out for yourself,” Kichton said. “That’s what I’m trying to do here: focus on the team game and try to get the guys ready to get some victories out there.”
The Chiefs are in the midst of a difficult stretch that included Friday’s game against Portland, which has won 14 consecutive games, and Wednesday’s upcoming game at Kelowna, which is 18-2 at home and had won eight staight until Saturday’s overtime loss at Vancouver.
Chiefs defenseman Reid Gow (shoulder) missed his second consecutive game, but he is expected back soon. Gow (seven goals, 27 assists, 34 points) ranks seventh in team scoring. … New Chiefs acquisition Alessio Bertaggia will join the team Wednesday in Kelowna. The 19-year-old forward was Brandon’s leading scorer before Thursday’s trade in which the Wheat Kings received Marek Kalus, prospect Rhett Gardner and two picks in WHL bantam drafts.
Justin Bonanno scored at 5:33 of the third period and the Spokane Braves (12-22-3-2) and Beaver Valley Nitehawks (25-12-3-1) played to a 4-4 tie at Eagles Ice-A-Rena in Spokane.