Todd Fiddler’s 14th hockey game of the season was unfolding much like the first 13.
Through two periods of that Oct. 26 game in Everett, Fiddler hadn’t scored. The pattern was similar to Fiddler’s first 13 games for the Spokane Chiefs, in which he had accounted for just five goals.
Then, for whatever reason, Fiddler caught lightning in a bottle.
“Personally, I knew I was capable of it, but I just had to find it somehow, someway,” Fiddler said. “I guess that Everett game was just when I really believed in myself.”
During the final period in Everett, Fiddler scored twice as the Chiefs nearly roared back from a 6-2 deficit.
He scored another goal the following night, in a win at Tri-City, and added two three nights later during a home win against Seattle.
The goals kept piling up, including Fiddler’s hat trick Nov. 17 at Seattle. By the time Spokane reached its 31st game, Fiddler had 23 goals and was briefly tied for the Western Hockey League lead. (He’s third now, two behind Colin Smith of Kamloops.)
After averaging around one goal every three games for the first month of the Chiefs’ season, Fiddler has registered 18 goals in 18 games.
Fiddler’s offense is a big factor in the current hot streak for Spokane (22-8-1-0), which has won eight of 10 heading into a three-game homestand that starts tonight.
Fiddler is quick to share the credit with his teammates, but he entered the season with a major role to play.
“I knew I was a 19-year-old guy and had to produce in the offensive zone,” Fiddler said. “It was a bit of a slow start there. … The numbers weren’t there at the beginning, but we stuck with it.”
There was some added pressure on Fiddler because the Chiefs traded away their top scorer, Anthony Bardaro, to the Prince Albert Raiders last December to acquire Fiddler and goaltender Eric Williams.
Prince Albert is located just 2 1/2 hours from Fiddler’s home of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. Fiddler had some trepidation about playing so far from home, but he has already matched the 23 goals and 38 points he had for the Raiders two seasons ago.
Spokane’s recent trip to the East Division gave Fiddler’s family, friends and ex-coaches a chance to see him play five games in Saskatchewan. Fiddler will return to the province for Christmas break, following Tuesday’s game against WHL power Portland.
The Chiefs are playing U.S. Division rivals Seattle, Tri-City and Portland during the next five days. Spokane (45 points) is six points behind first-place Portland and six points ahead of third-place Tri-City in the division.
“We have to make sure we’re focused and make sure we’re outworking the other teams, because these are key points,” Fiddler said.
The Chiefs will play without head coach Don Nachbaur, who is serving as an assistant for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Chiefs assistant coach Jon Klemm will be acting head coach