Hat tricks seem to becoming fashionable for the Spokane Chiefs.
A night after Mitch Holmberg scored one in the first period alone, the Chiefs’ sniper did it again on Sunday in the same manner, scoring three goals in the first period that helped the Chiefs to a 9-4 Western Hockey League win against the Kamloops Blazers. Dominic Zwerger also recorded a hat trick for the Chiefs.
“You know, I think it’s been good teamwork and getting to the net,” Holmberg said. “It’s been a really solid couple of days for our team and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
But the barrage of goals didn’t seem to satisfy head coach Don Nachbaur, who felt his team didn’t play a complete game.
“We’ve had those games where we’ve dominated the first period and stopped playing in the second and had to scramble in the third,” he said. “I wanted to play 60 minutes and I think we played 40. Our goalie had to make 19 saves in the second period. That’s not a good reflection of the guys in front of him.”
The Chiefs started backup goalie Garret Hughson, who made 33 saves on 37 shots.
“It’s good to get the young guys some minutes,” Nachbaur said of Hughson. “He looked tentative at times but in the second period I thought he warmed up to the game. He was pretty good.”
Holmberg has scored 57 goals this season and 142 for his career. He passed Ray Whitney for third on the Chiefs’ all-time list and is five away from passing Pat Falloon for the lead.
Kamloops got on the board first when Matt Bellerive tipped in a pass from the point on the power play just 1:47 into the game. Chiefs captain Reid Gow was in the penalty box after taking a high-sticking penalty.
Zwerger scored first for Spokane at 6:11 of the first period when he put home a wraparound shot past Kamloops rookie goalie Cole Kehler.
Then the floodgates opened.
Holmberg snuck in a high shot from the right circle that ricocheted out of the net as play continued. The goal light behind the net went on, and the officials eventually ruled the shot a goal after a review. Zwerger added his second of the night just 7 seconds later after Kehler misplayed the puck behind his net. The goal tied a team record for fastest consecutive goals.
Holmberg scored his second of the night off a feed from Gow at the 11:59 mark. Spokane’s Carter Proft scored his third goal in two nights 20 seconds later before Holmberg completed the hat trick at the 18:54 mark on a power play.
Kamloops’ Josh Connolly scored the lone goal of the second period.
The Chiefs and Blazers traded goals in the third period, as Chiefs Adam Helewka and Gow scored before Zwerger completed his hat trick at the 19:12 mark. Bellerive scored his second of the game, and Collin Shirley added a goal as well.
Holmberg and Zwerger each had four points.
“Good for Mitch for finding his game again,” Nachbaur said. “He’d be the first to tell you he was no good in Kootenay (last Friday night) and he did a lot of soul-searching and came back with two big games for us.”
The win gives the Chiefs 78 points, two back of the idle fourth-place Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Conference playoff race. The Chiefs have played one more game than the Thunderbirds.