Spokane Chiefs rookie Curtis Miske produced two goals through his first 48 games of this Western Hockey League season.
Miske more than doubled that output on Saturday with his first career WHL hat trick spurring the Chiefs to an 8-1 rout over the Tri-City Americans before 9,120 vocal fans at the Arena.
“Last year in midget (for the Leduc Oil Kings of Alberta) I had two (hat tricks) there, but this one was the most special to me,” Miske said. … “I think I got a little bit of a lucky one on the first one. That got me rolling and jumping and the rest just came from there.”
“I’m happy for him,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said of Miske. “He did a lot of good things tonight. He shot the puck. He has good skills. He had the puck a lot tonight and got to the right areas.”
The Chiefs took advantage of 15-year-old goalie Beck Warm, who made his WHL debut as the Americans await regulars Eric Comrie and Evan Sarthou to return from injury.
Warm held up for the early onslaught as Spokane uncorked the first 11 shots of the game. Miske’s goal at 7 minutes, 59 seconds was all the Chiefs manufactured in the first despite a 19-6 shots advantage.
The dam broke during Spokane’s five-goal second period. Blair Oneschuk (after a review), Adam Helewka and Liam Stewart scored during a span of 2:22 for a 4-0 lead. Miske’s second goal, at 12:09, made it 5-0 and Helewka added to his club-best total of 35 by scoring with 50 seconds left in the period.
“We knew how fragile mentally they would be if we could get an early lead,” Nachbaur said. “I thought we scored some easy goals where they didn’t really defend, but I don’t want to talk about their game. Our game was good and you have to battle through those circumstances. We’ve had the injuries that they’re going through right now and it’s not easy.”
After Calder Brooks’ 19th goal of the season, and third in three games, boosted the lead to 7-0, Miske achieved his hat trick with 4:58 left.
“I think that third one was a great play by (Jason) Fram into the middle to me and just the smile on my face afterward was awesome,” said Miske, who turned 18 last month.
In fact Miske’s birthday, Jan. 17, was the day the Americans beat up Spokane 7-0 while the Chiefs fought injuries.
“We were thinking back to that, for sure, and using that as fuel,” Miske said.
“We’re trying to get better for the playoffs,” Nachbaur said. “There’s no vendetta. We’re just trying to make progress with what we’re doing heading into the playoffs.”
Spokane (30-27-3-1, 64 points) won its third consecutive game to solidify its hold on the No. 7 postseason seed in the Western Conference. Tri-City (27-33-0-3), which has lost 12 of 15, is seven points behind Spokane. Vancouver, which comes to the Arena on Tuesday, is nine behind.
Chiefs goalie Garret Hughson lost his bid at a second consecutive shutout with 15 seconds left when Taylor Vickerman scored on a 5-on-3 power play.
Spokane blanked Tri-City 4-0 on Friday and is now 7-3-0-0 against the Americans this season.
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