The Spokane Chiefs’ offense hit a dry spell at the same time Mitch Holmberg’s torrid scoring cooled off.
If Saturday night is any indication, Holmberg and the Chiefs are back.
Holmberg, the Western Hockey League’s leader in goals scored, accounted for Nos. 48 and 49 and added two assists as the Chiefs flattened the Tri-City Americans by matching a season high for goals during a 7-0 victory at the Arena.
Holmberg (97 points) recently gave up his league leading in scoring to Portland’s Nicolas Petan (100) after a 15-game spell in which he was held to five goals and four assists. He’d had no goals in Spokane’s previous five games, but Saturday, playing the 300th game of his WHL career, the old Holmberg was back.
“(Coach) Don (Nachbaur) and I had a lot of talks about it, and I just tried to keep my game simple and getting back to working hard,” Holmberg said. “I think that was the biggest thing. Tonight was an example that if I do that, I can keep going.”
“Get to work,” Nachbaur said was his advice to Holmberg. “Work gets you places. If you think it’s going to come easy, it doesn’t work that way.”
The Chiefs had scored two or fewer goals in 10 of their last 15 games, including five shutouts. Spokane had lost six of its last seven games, but the exception was another seven-goal outburst against the Americans on Feb. 8. The Chiefs are 7-1-0-1 against Tri-City this season.
“Rarely do you see seven goals when it’s Tri and Spokane,” said Nachbaur, who previously coached the Americans. “Usually, it’s a one-goal game and one of the teams is pulling its goalie to try to get back in the game.”
The line of Keanu Yamamoto, Connor Chartier and Dominic Zwerger got the Chiefs off to a 2-0 start in the first period. Yamamoto rebounded a Chartier shot at 2 minutes, 38 seconds and assisted with Reid Gow on Chartier’s goal at 13:16.
Holmberg had a hand in the next three goals, scoring on power plays at 32 seconds of the second and 5:18 of the third, and assisting on Adam Helewka’s goal late in the second.
Hudson Elynuik scored his first goal as a Chief, since his trade from Kootenay, midway through the final period for a 6-0 advantage. Zwerger’s power-play goal with 2:48 left capped the scoring.
The Chiefs were 3 for 6 on the power play after going 0 for 19 in their last five games.
“There’s a fine line between getting it done and not getting it done,” Nachbaur said. “A lot of luck’s involved and you make your own luck. Tonight we got pucks to the goalie, to the paint and we found rebounds.”
Eric Williams had 16 saves to post his third shut- out of the season. Spokane outshot Tri-City 48-16.
The Chiefs (33-20-3-2, 71 points) solidified their hold on fifth place in the Western Conference when Everett and Vancouver, both with 64 points, both lost. Eighth-place Tri-City (60 points) is just four points ahead of Prince George in the chase for the conference’s final playoff spot.