Spokane Chiefs head coach Dan Lambert wanted Kailer Yamamoto to produce more offense now that Yamamoto is back in the Spokane lineup full time.
Yamamoto has risen to the challenge the past three games, and his two-point night on Wednesday helped the Chiefs to a 3-0 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Yamamoto has six points in three games since returning from the World Junior Hockey Championships. He’s only played in 16 games after starting the season with the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL and then with Team USA at the World Juniors.
Now that he’s back in Spokane, he can find a rhythm.
“He’s a great player and that’s what he needs to bring for us,” Lambert said.
“Tonight, I thought his first period was arguably his best period as a Chief this season. And then the rest of the night there were a lot of (penalty kills) and I thought he did a good job there.”
Yamamoto plays on the power play and the penalty kill, and Spokane killed all five Brandon power plays. On the flip side, the Chiefs were 0 for 5 on the power play.
“I got off to a slow start (this season),” Yamamoto said. “I might have put a little too much pressure on myself, but I’m trying to work harder than I have, so that’s helped me out, and I’ve been winning my puck battles.”
Yamamoto tipped in a Jaret Anderson-Dolan shot to open the scoring at 14 minutes, 40 seconds of the first period.
He assisted on the Chiefs’ second goal when he sent a nice no-look pass from behind the net to Ethan McIndoe out front. McIndoe sent a shot past Brandon goaltender Logan Thompson to give Spokane a 2-0 lead.
Yamamoto skates on a line with Anderson-Dolan and McIndoe, and the three of them have found some nice chemistry.
“I’ve played with JAD the past two, almost three years, so I have a lot of chemistry with him,” Yamamoto said. “And then to have (McIndoe) come on the line with him going to the net and making us plays helps a lot.”
Goaltender Bailey Brkin got his first career shutout for Spokane in a 21-save performance. Brkin is 2-1 since Spokane acquired him prior to the trade deadline.
“What I like about (Brkin) is he makes the first save and he’s been square to the puck,” Lambert said. “He’s made some saves that you probably don’t expect him to make. That’s what you need from your goalie.”
Milos Fafrak gave Spokane a 3-0 lead at 17:57 of the second after he took advantage of a Wheat Kings turnover in front of the net. It was Fafrak’s sixth goal of the season.
The win, coupled with the Tri-City Americans’ loss to Swift Current, moves the Chiefs into a tie with the Americans in the U.S. Division, although Tri-City has one game in hand.
The Chiefs and Americans meet Saturday at the Arena.
Smith will captain Team Orr
Spokane Chiefs defenseman Ty Smith will captain Team Orr at the Jan. 25 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Top Prospects Game in Guelph, Ontario.
Smith, widely projected to be a first-round pick in June’s NHL Draft, is the 14th member of the Spokane Chiefs to play in the Top Prospects Game and the first to be named captain.
“I’ve watched the Top Prospects Game on TV for years now and have watched friends and teammates participate,” Smith said in a news release. “It was a goal of mine at the beginning of the season to make the roster and to be named captain makes it all that much more special.”
The Top Prospects Game gives players a chance to play in front of NHL scouts and alongside other top players in what is basically a CHL all-star game for draft-eligible players.
Smith has 43 points (six goals, 37 assists) in 45 games this season.
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