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Chiefs’ rookies give Holmberg a big assist

Mitch Holmberg talked about getting chills down his back during a night in which he reached an important career milestone.

Ever the humble player, Holmberg was talking about the excitement he felt when teammates Jacob Cardiff and Adam Hascic also had big moments in their hockey careers Friday night.

Rookies Cardiff and Hascic scored their first career goals, both in the third period and both unassisted, and Holmberg scored twice, including the 100th goal of his career, to lift the torrid Spokane Chiefs to a 4-2 Western Hockey League win over the Everett Silvertips at the Arena.

Cardiff scored 3 minutes and 58 seconds into the third period, less than 2 ½ minutes after the Silvertips tied the game at 2 on Manraj Hayer’s fourth goal of the season.

Hascic, gathering up an Everett turnover, added an insurance goal at 10:43 as the Chiefs improved to 4-0 at home and 10-2-0-0 overall with their fourth consecutive win.

“You know when you see them score their first goals that there are many more to come for those guys,” said Holmberg, who leads the WHL with 16 goals and 31 points, with at least one point in every game.

“Those guys are both great players and they’ll have great futures here.”

“I was pretty surprised it went in, actually,” Cardiff said. “I was trying to shoot it as fast as I could and just tried to get it on net. It worked out for the best.”

The Chiefs lead the WHL with 20 points and a winning percentage of .833. Spokane increased its lead in the U.S. Division when Seattle (17 points) lost in a shootout.

The Chiefs never trailed, taking a 1-0 lead at 7:31 of the first on Holmberg’s 100th career goal, on a 5-on-3 power play. After Everett evened the game at 13:24 of the first on Patrick Bajkov’s first career goal, Holmberg shot high to the net for goal No. 101 with 25 seconds left in the period.

“He’s playing like a man possessed,” said Chiefs captain Reid Gow, who assisted on both Holmberg goals. “What’s he’s doing for the team now is incredible. We’re lucky to have a player like that.”

Gow’s two assists gave him 12, tied for seventh among league leaders.

“Mitch gets us a lead and we kind of hung on to that through two periods,” coach Don Nachbaur said. “But I thought we played way better in the third period. We got our game going, we rolled four lines and we got contributions from some young guys, which is great. … We needed that. Like I said in the locker room, we can’t rely on Mitch to get four goals a night and win games.”

Goalie Eric Williams improved to a league-best 8-1 by stopping 17 of 19 shots. Williams still leads the WHL with a goals-against average of 1.76, but he dropped to No. 2 in saves percentage (.933).

“It starts in net,” Nachbaur said. “Some of the chances (Williams) had were quality chances. We missed assignments and got daydreaming and he’s always been there for us. He has his game going.”

Spokane is in the midst of five consecutive home games. No. 3 is tonight against B.C. Division-leading Victoria (8-6-0-0), which is 0-2 against the Chiefs this season, having been outscored 12-3.

The Chiefs have outscored rivals 47-26.