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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Thursday, December 12, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hometown fans finally get to see surging Chiefs

Spokane off to first 3-0 start since 2007-08

Most Spokane Chiefs fans haven’t had a chance to see their favorite team this season.

The majority of hockey fans who have seen the Chiefs didn’t enjoy the view.

Spokane will open the home portion of its Western Hockey League schedule tonight at the Arena against the Tri-City Americans. Fans in Kennewick and Victoria, British Columbia, where the Chiefs played the first three games of the season, could only watch as Spokane dismantled their hometown teams. Spokane has outscored rivals 18-5 this year, winning by scores of 6-2, 6-2 and 6-1.

The Chiefs are off to their first 3-0 start since 2007-08, when their goal differential was 16-5.

“I think No. 1, our team is playing like a team,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We’re not out there playing 20 different games. … I think we were really good with our team game in ‘Tri,’ and I’d say the same thing about the two games in Victoria. We’ve worked really hard and competed really hard, but we’ve done it together.”

“Definitely the fans are happy when we’re scoring, and we’re going to definitely try to keep them happy but, that being said, we’re just going to try to play the right way all the time,” said Chiefs center Mike Aviani, who scored four goals Wednesday at Victoria.

Heading into Friday’s games, the Chiefs led the league in scoring, with four more goals than defending WHL champion Portland, which had scored 14 goals but allowed 12.

The Chiefs are dominating the individual scoring race. Mitch Holmberg leads the WHL with six goals and 12 points. Fellow 20-year-old Aviani (five goals, nine points) is second in both categories.

“I think we just have good fundamentals that are instilled by the coach,” Aviani said. “Don’s a great coach and he tells us where to go on the ice. Pucks are bouncing our way right now.”

Spokane’s Reid Gow leads the league with seven assists and is tied for third with Portland’s Oliver Bjorkstrand with seven points.

Jason Fram has four assists, while Connor Chartier, Liam Stewart and rookie Markson Bechtold are averaging one point per game.

The Chiefs are also getting it done in net, with No. 1 goalie Eric Williams eighth in the league with a .923 save percentage, stopping 48 of 52 shots, and backup Garret Hughson second at .966 (28 of 29).

“Let’s be honest,” Nachbaur said. “We’re out of the gates fast, but we’re not a Memorial Cup-contending team yet. … We’re not naïve to the fact that we’ve won some games with some big scores, but we have to remember how we did it. We won’t do it by changing our style and looking like the Portland Winterhawks with all the speed and all the nifty plays and drop passes. We can’t play that way and have success.”

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