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 22 shots.
Spokane (26-13-0-2, 54 points) moved into a fourth-place tie in the Western Conference with Everett.
Right wing Jacob Cardiff (upper body) is out for 1-2 weeks. Left wing Markson Bechtold (lower body) with a date to be determined for his return.
The WHL trading period ended Friday, but not before the Chiefs worked a deal with Tri-City that sent Playfair to the Americans for Messier.
Messier had five goals and 15 assists in 39 games with Tri-City this season while Playfair had six goals and nine assists in 89 career games with Spokane.
Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz called Messier a versatile forward who will add depth to Spokane’s specialty teams.
Messier’s father, Mitch, played 20 games with the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars before a horrific car accident ended his career. Mitch is a second cousin to NHL Hall of Famer Mark Messier.
Bob Tory had never made a trade with Spokane during his 13 years as Tri-City general manager.