Breakthroughs, successful returns and the same old magic blended together Friday night to give the Spokane Chiefs their most lopsided win of the season.
Rookies Colton Bobyk and Spokane product Keanu Yamamoto provided the breakthroughs, scoring their first career goals during the Chiefs’ 7-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings at the Arena.
“The rookies are playing good,” said Bobyk, whose goal at 5 minutes and 53 seconds of the first period counted as the winner as the Chiefs improved to a league-best 11-3-0-0.
“Most of us got our first goals already and we just keep moving forward. We’re getting better as the other guys help us out.”
As for successful returns, Adam Helewka and Liam Stewart came back from injuries to score as the Chiefs reached a season high for goals in a game.
“I was so anxious to get back in the lineup,” said Helewka, who also had an assist. “I never want to be out. You almost feel useless, not helping out the team, and it’s just great to be back with my boys.”
Strong as ever were the four veterans who have put Spokane in position to tie the club record for most points (24) through 15 games.
Eric Williams stopped 35 of 36 shots to improve to 9-1 and retake the league lead from Everett’s Austin Lotz for goals-against average (1.68) and save percentage (.938). Williams was 3:13 away from his eighth career shutout when Eric Roy scored for Brandon (7-6-0-0) on a 5-on-3 power play.
“He was solid throughout,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said of Williams. “He was outstanding, but that’s what he’s brought every night.”
Chiefs captain Reid Gow had a career-best four assists to give him 16 for the season, tied for fifth place in the league.
WHL scoring leader Mitch Holmberg, who has contributed points in every game this season, added one goal and two assists. Holmberg’s 35 points are seven ahead of the field and his 17 goals are four better than teammate Mike Aviani and Portland’s Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Aviani’s power-play goal early in the second period gave Spokane a 2-0 lead and gave the Chiefs’ 20-year-old center 23 points.
Spokane (22 points) leads the U.S. Division by one point over Portland and two over Everett and Seattle. Portland, riding a seven-game winning streak, comes to the Arena tonight for the first time this season.