It started with Markson Bechtold’s first goal and ended with Mitch Holmberg’s 41st.
Any way they dissected it, the Spokane Chiefs played the way they need to Friday night if they want to make some noise during the Western Hockey League season and postseason.
The Chiefs outshot Victoria 41-27 and posted a 5-3 win at the Arena that ended the Royals’ six-game winning streak. Victoria (27-14-0-2, 56 points) had climbed to third place in the Western Conference with one loss – in a shootout – during its previous eight games.
In the process, Spokane (24-13-0-2, 50 points) won for the sixth time in seven games and jumped past Seattle (49 points) into fifth place in the Western Conference. Fourth place belongs to Everett (51 points), which arrives in Spokane tonight having lost 16 consecutive games at the Arena.
“You look at the standings at the teams behind us and the teams ahead of us and everyone’s winning,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “Every game’s important. There are no nights off.”
Holmberg scored his league-leading 40th and 41st goals 2 minutes and 44 second apart in the third period to give the Chiefs some breathing room while protecting a 3-2 lead.
“When you hit 40, you always want more and that’s kind of the case right now,” Holmberg said. “Playing with the guys I play with, they make the game easy for me. I know if I can find that open ice, they’ll put the puck on my tape. It’s nice to do it, but tomorrow you can’t think about that kind of stuff.”
Spokane also got offensive contributions from unexpected places: Bechtold’s first goal of the season for a 1-0 lead at 11:32 of the first period; Dominic Zwerger’s seventh goal early in the second for a 2-1 edge; and Cole Wedman’s rebound goal, his third of the season, for a 3-1 advantage at 6:20 of the second.
Bechtold scored two goals in five games with the Chiefs last season but had been waiting to break through this year.
“I definitely wanted to get it out of the way,” Bechtold said. “I had a bit of a monkey on my back, so it was good to get it out of the way.”
The goal, 5 seconds after a Spokane power play, involved a huge scramble at the net. Colton Bobyk appeared to have scored, but he told Bechtold that he broke his stick on the post.
“I got a good pass from (Carter Proft) down low and I just tried to jam it (in),” Bechtold said. “The puck squirted out after my initial jam and I was able to put it back on the net and somehow find a way. … I think (Victoria goalie Patrik Polivka’s) movements might have initiated the goal going in, but I was on my back so I don’t even know.”
The Chiefs won the season series with Victoria 3-1. Spokane is 8-2 against the teams in the Royals’ B.C. Division.
“We’re just trying to be the best team we can,” Nachbaur said. “We don’t look further than tomorrow. “We won a game tonight and talked about putting it behind us and getting ready for Everett,” Nachbaur said. “It means nothing tonight if we come out and stink the joint up tomorrow.”