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Goal, victory bring cheer for Whittingham, Chiefs

Spokane Chiefs logo (Courtesy)

Chiefs top Kamloops 6-3

One of Riley Whittingham’s best friends on the Spokane Chiefs was traded on Friday, making it an emotional day even before the puck dropped at the Arena.

Whittingham’s emotions shifted from a bit of dejection to elation at night when he scored his first winning goal of the season for the sizzling Spokane Chiefs.

Whittingham, with his 10th goal of the season, snapped a 3-all tie at 16 minutes, 58 seconds of the second period and the Chiefs defeated the Kamloops Blazers 6-3 in Western Hockey League play at the Arena for their fourth consecutive victory.

The Chiefs began the day by trading 19-year-old forward Jackson Playfair to the Tri-City Americans for 19-year-old forward Marcus Messier, who made his Chiefs debut in the starting lineup.

“Jackson Playfair was really a good buddy of mine,” Whittingham said after the Chiefs won for the eighth time in nine games. “We did a lot of stuff together, like before the game with rituals. I still kind of pretended that he was there, but it affected me a little bit. Good luck to him, though.”

“The trading deadline is an emotional time for those kids,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “Hockey isn’t on their minds as much because they’re thinking about whether they’re going to be here or not.”

Dominic Zwerger, Adam Helewka, Reid Gow, Mitch Holmberg and Connor Chartier also scored for the Chiefs. It was the first goal of the season for Gow, who ranks third in the WHL with 39 assists, and the WHL-best 42nd for Holmberg, who boosted his league-leading points total to 83.

Holmberg’s goal was short-handed with 6:51 left as the Chiefs were protecting a 4-3 lead while putting the Blazers (10-29-2-2) on the power play for the first time in the game. Chartier’s score was an empty-netter with 1:14 left.

“We got a lot of secondary scoring tonight and we needed it because of a pretty slow start,” said Whittingham, who had a winner last season against Tri-City.

“I thought we were standing around and didn’t skate and I guess the bottom line is we weren’t prepared to play for two periods,” Nachbaur said. “We were a little bit better in the third, but, still, that can’t be our benchmark for how we want to play.”

The Chiefs started Garret Hughson in goal for the first time since Dec. 1. Hughson improved to 4-4-0-1. He stopped after stopping 22 of 25 shots.

Spokane (26-13-0-2, 54 points) moved into a fourth-place tie in the Western Conference with Everett, which defeated Tri-City 6-3.

The Chiefs will take their fourth shot at Seattle Saturday on the road. Seattle is 3-0 against Spokane this year, outscoring the Chiefs 16-6. The Thunderbirds are also at Spokane on Tuesday.