Apparently there’s a new sniper in town.
The Spokane Chiefs’ leading man these days isn’t Drayson Bowman. It isn’t Mitch Wahl – though Bowman and Wahl are still up there in the ranks.
But so far the leader of the pack – scoring-wise – is Levko Koper.
Koper scored a hat trick on Saturday night – brining his team-leading goal total this season to 11 and his team-high point total to 20 – as the Chiefs scored a 5-1 victory over the Kootenay Ice in front of 7,625 thrilled fans at the Arena.
“I knew he’d be among the top three or four (scorers) – at least we were hoping,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said.
Koper is building on a successful season last year in which he was relied on more for his checking abilities. In 69 regular-season games last season Koper had 11 goals and 26 points and was part of the gritty, two-way third line with Tyler Johnson and Justin McCrae.
“We were hoping that between him, Johnson and McCrae that two of three would evolve a little bit as far as scoring goes,” Sauter added.
Koper put Spokane (10-3-0-3) – which is tied atop the U.S. Division standings with the Tri-City Americans – on the scoreboard first on Saturday night with a beauty of a power-play goal midway through the opening period.
Stefan Ulmer started the play from the right point, crossed the puck to Trevor Glass at the left point and Glass delivered the puck to Johnson in the middle of the left face-off zone. From there, Johnson one-timed a pass to Ryan Letts on the left of the crease and Letts made a smooth pass to Koper, who earned a wide-open look and buried a shot on Ice goalie Thomas Heemskerk.
“I was just in the right place at the right time, those were just some great passes from the guys to set me up,” Koper said.
“With players like Bowman, Wahl and Johnson coming off a good year last year and stuff like that, I definitely didn’t think I’d be the top guy to get the most points,” he added. “It’s kind of a shock – it’s just going pretty good right now.”
Koper added his second goal three minutes later and after Mitch Wahl scored a power-play goal late in the second period, Koper completed the hat trick with another power-play goal at 19:48.
Wahl scored again, slapping in a shot from the slot 13:33 into the third period, after Tylan Stephens spoiled Dustin Tokarski’s shutout bid on a penalty Spokane took for having too many men on the ice.
The Chiefs finished 3 for 5 on the power play, and were 3 for 4 on the penalty kill. Tokarki made 34 saves in net for Spokane, which returns to action on Wednesday night at the Arena against the Red Deer Rebels.
“I thought our penalty-killing early was outstanding, our power play was really good and I thought we shot the puck real well tonight – a lot of good, hard shots and we got to the net,” Sauter said.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon (ankle) and right wing Justin McCrae (knee) – both listed with indefinite injuries – were scratched from the lineup, along with healthy left-winger Mike Betz. … Chiefs defenseman Brett Bartman handled himself well in a third-period fight with Dustin Sylvester, as did defenseman Mike Reddington against Kootenay’s Michael Cassivi. … Tokarki stopped a penalty shot awarded to Kootenay late in the first period, taken by Steele Boomer.
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