Chiefs continue to be cream of Western crop
Sometimes being stuck in a repetitious cycle is a good thing.
Mitch Holmberg, Mike Aviani and Eric Williams can attest to that for a Spokane Chiefs team that has the best record in the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference.
Holmberg and Aviani accounted for two goals and two assists apiece, and Williams stopped 26 of 27 shots Wednesday as the Chiefs improved to 9-2-0-0 with a 5-1 win over the Swift Current Broncos (6-4-0-1) at the Arena.
Spokane (18 points) vaulted ahead of Seattle (16) for the top position in the conference and the U.S. Division.
The Chiefs have outscored rivals 43-24 despite playing eight of their first 11 games on the road. Spokane is 3-0 at home with four home games coming in the next 10 days.
“I don’t think anybody envisioned (a 9-2 start) for us, but obviously it’s kind of the underdog role,” Holmberg said. “When you start on the road like that, it can kind of go really good or really bad. And in our case, it couldn’t have gone any better.”
Holmberg had two breakaway goals to stake the Chiefs to a 2-0 lead in the first period, the second goal with Spokane playing shorthanded. Holmberg leads the WHL with 14 goals and 29 points, and is tied for first with 15 assists.
Aviani had two power-play goals in the third period, both assisted by Holmberg and Markson Bechtold. Aviani is tied for second in the league with 11 goals and 21 points.
Williams improved to 7-1 and took over the league lead in goals-against average at 1.74.
“Our top five guys on defense are all experienced guys with many minutes in the league, but I would attribute (their success) to the guy behind them,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “When they’ve made mistakes, (Williams has) been there for them. I can’t speak enough about our goaltending this year.”
Rookie Dominic Zwerger added his third goal of the season to give the Chiefs a 3-0 lead early in the second period.
Spokane also had two apparent goals waived off, one by Blair Oneschuk in the second period for playing the puck off a high stick, and one by Zwerger in the third period that was ruled to have not crossed the line.
The Broncos’ Tanner LeSann scored late in the second period to cut Spokane’s lead to 3-1. Williams turned away Swift Current flurries early in the third period before Broncos penalties helped the Chiefs add Aviani’s power-play insurance goals.
“At the end of the day, it’s not really about individual points,” Aviani said. “It’s about the two points for the Chiefs.”
Chiefs left wing Adam Helewka is still week-to-week with a lower-body injury. … Chiefs center Liam Stewart, who injured his upper body during the recent road trip to Alberta, is also listed as week-to-week. … The Chiefs maintained their No. 3 ranking in the weekly Canadian Hockey League Top 10 poll. The top four remained unchanged, with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (10-0-1-0) ranked first, the London Knights (7-1-1-0) second and the Kingston Frontenacs (7-1-0-1) fourth. Other ranked WHL teams are Medicine Hat, fifth; Seattle, sixth; and Kelowna, ninth.