VICTORIA, B.C. – The Spokane Chiefs live to play another day, or even possibly two.
Birthday boy Matt Sozanski had a pair of assists to help pace the Chiefs to a convincing 4-1 win over the Victoria Royals on Friday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, cutting the host’s best-of-seven series lead to 3-2 with Game 6 back in Spokane on Sunday.
Should a Game 7 be required, it would be played Tuesday back in Victoria, which Sozanski, for one, would love to see.
“The best birthday present is a win, so that was nice,” said the just turned 20-year-old. “We always have to believe. We just have to keep playing the way we are and try to keep rolling here.”
The victory snapped Victoria’s 15-game winning streak at home. You can go one giant step further as the Royals had not lost in regulation time at the SOFMC since Dec. 13. The building was sold out at 7,006 on a delightfully sunny day that turned dreary indoors for the fans.
Goaltender Lasse Petersen was solid, making 44 saves for the Chiefs. Curtis Miske had the winning goal at 17:26 of the first period and Keanu Yamamoto added the back-breaker as he tallied short-handed at 7:29 of the third period for the 4-1 advantage.
The Royals came out quickly, out-shooting the Chiefs 6-1 in the first six minutes, but an issue with their gate at the home bench forced a lengthy delay that killed any momentum the hosts had built. Victoria defenceman Ryan Gagnon rattled the goal post and Tyler Soy was robbed in tight, all alone by Petersen in those first six minutes.
But when action resumed, Gagnon flipped the puck over the boards to take a delay of game penalty and Kailer Yamamoto buried a Chiefs’ power-play goal at 7:18. Miske made it 2-0, but Jack Walker got one back less than a minute later for Victoria.
Jacob Cardiff had the 3-1 goal at 6:28 of the second period as he deflected the puck off Royals goalie Griffen Outhouse’s mask and in.
“This is a tough building to play in and getting that first goal and starting it off right was big for us,” said Sozanski, who admitted the delay helped the Chiefs. “It came at not a good time for them. They had all the momentum and I guess it kind of helped us in a way. We talked about relaxing and settling it down and I think it did help us in that way.”
The Chiefs continue to prove they will not be a pushover for the No. 1-seeded Royals, who claimed the Scotty Munro Memorial trophy as the WHL’s regular-season winner.
“It’s a real big win, but we’ve felt like we’ve been in every game in this series and the lead could be reversed,” said Spokane head coach Don Nachbaur. “That second game here (a 4-3 loss) we built confidence coming out of here and we lost Game 4 (in overtime). At the end of the day, we had to come back here and win and we did our part and get to go home.
“They had us on our heels to start, but our goalie was good tonight,” he added. “I give him a lot of credit. He was fantastic, but with that said we also blocked a lot of shots.”
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