Coming into Tuesday’s game at the Arena, the Swift Current Broncos boasted the second-best record in the Western Hockey League.
They also have four of the league’s top-10 scorers, the league’s top power play, and rank third in goals for and against.
The Spokane Chiefs were missing their top defenseman in Ty Smith – off to Guelph, Ontario, for the CHL Top Prospects Game – and welcomed back goaltender Dawson Weatherill, who’s been shelved by an injury.
So, major advantage to Swift Current, right? Wrong.
The Chiefs stuck to their game plan, weathered the Broncos’ physical play and chirping and got a big 4-2 Western Hockey League victory thanks to two goals from defenseman Filip Kral.
The win moves the Chiefs into a tie with the Tri-City Americans for the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, though the Ams have one game in hand.
“It certainly should give us confidence that when you play the right way, we have the ability to play with any team,” Chiefs coach Dan Lambert said. “We know that was the end of (Swift Current’s) road trip, but we’ve played a lot of hockey as well. Kudos to our guys. We battled, we played as a team tonight and when they did get opportunities, Dawson stood tall for us.”
The Broncos played their fifth game in seven nights and were at the end of their U.S. Division road trip.
Weatherill made key saves throughout the game, but none was more important than the ones he stopped in the third period.
Swift Current outshot Spokane 15-6 in the final frame and Weatherill helped the Chiefs hold off a late 6-on-3 power play for Swift Current, thanks to two Spokane penalties and an empty net at the other end.
“I thought in the third period that’s as well as he’s played for us all season,” Lambert said of Weatherill. “We’re going to need that from him moving forward. It was great to see that at a key time.”
Kailer Yamamoto continued his torrid pace when he scored 31 seconds into the game to give Spokane an early lead. He added an assist and has 11 points in his five games back from the World Juniors.
Giorgio Estephan tied the game at 16:39 of the first period for Swift Current after he took advantage of a bad Spokane line change and ripped one past Weatherill.
Kral got his first of the night when he sent a shot from the point past Swift Current goaltender Stuart Skinner at 17:26 of the second. Artyom Minulin scored at 4:31 of the second to tie the game again.
Spokane’s Luke Gallagher looked like he had his second goal of the season in the second period, but officials waved it off and ruled there was incidental contact with the goalie. But 36 seconds later, Ethan McIndoe got his stick on a loose puck in the crease and gave Spokane a 3-2 lead. It was McIndoe’s 14th goal of the season.
Kral’s second goal was nearly identical to his first. He held the puck at the blue line and patiently waited for a lane to shoot. He connected at 13:10 of the third, giving Spokane a big 4-2 lead.
“I waited for a good line and I’m sure (Skinner) didn’t see the puck,” Kral said.
Weatherill stopped 28 shots while Skinner turned aside 21. The Chiefs went scoreless on five power-play chances, while Swift Current connected on one of its five opportunities.
The Chiefs boarded the bus after the game and will be in Vancouver on Wednesday for a date with the Giants.
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