March 15, 2013 in Sports

Proft leads Chiefs to No. 4 seed

By The Spokesman-Review
 

His fellow Spokane Chiefs voted Carter Proft as the team’s “Players’ Player,” more for his tough-nosed play and his durability.

Now Proft is finding his offense as the Chiefs approach postseason.

Proft scored twice in the second period Friday night for his first multigoal game of the season as the Chiefs earned the Western Hockey League Western Conference’s No. 4 seed to the playoffs by blasting the Tri-City Americans 6-0 in the final regular-season game at the Arena.

Proft has 11 goals for the season, but five have come in the last eight games.

The Chiefs, maybe not coincidentally, have won nine of their last 10 games.

“It’s always good to see that your teammates think of you that way,” said Proft, who picked up the award in a pregame ceremony. “We’re a tight-knit group. A lot of guys in our locker room could have won that award.”

“Good for Carter, I’m proud of him,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “He’s been a foot soldier all year long. For him to score those goals was huge for our team.”

The Chiefs (43-25-2-0, 88 points) eliminated the Americans (40-26-1-3, 84) from contention for the fourth seed and home-ice advantage in a best-of-seven, opening-round playoff. Both teams have two regular-season games left, including a Chiefs-Ams repeat tonight in Kennewick, but Spokane owns the tiebreaker because it has more wins.

The playoffs will begin Friday and next Saturday at the Arena. The third, fourth and (if necessary) fifth games will be in Kennewick. The final two games, if necessary, would be in Spokane.

Eric Williams stopped 20 shots for his fourth shutout of the season and his third win in seven days.

“Fantastic,” Nachbaur said. “You need a No. 1 goalie who’s hot going into the playoffs.”

Alessio Bertaggia scored the Chiefs’ first goal at 12:44 of the first period and assisted on Mitch Holmberg’s 39th goal for a 4-0 lead with 12:36 left in the game. Tyler King and Jackson Playfair added insurance goals on a night in which Reid Gow, Brenden Kichton and Todd Fiddler all had two assists apiece.

“I got my confidence back and I’m starting to find my game,” said Bertaggia, who came to the Chiefs in a January trade with Brandon.

Bertaggia, who missed four weeks with an upper-body injury soon after he arrived with the Chiefs, has six goals in the last four games.

“It was kind of hard at first to accept the trade and the change to a new city … but it was a great opportunity for me,” Bertaggia said.

Spokane’s home finale drew 10,367. The Chiefs finished the regular season with a home record of 25-10-1-0.

Notes

Spokane has three players with 30 or more goals (Fiddler, 42; Holmberg 39; Mike Aviani, 30) for the second time in the last 15 years. … The Chiefs are 14-7-2-0 against the Americans in the last two years. … Kichton picked up his team-best 60th and 61st assists. He leads the team with 83 points.

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