In what turned out to be a battle of goalies Wednesday night, the Spokane Chief’s back-up net master stole the show in a rare 1-0 shutout victory over Prince George.
After praising goalie Tyson Verhelst’s play earlier in the week, coach Don Nachbaur put Lasse Petersen in net and he responded by making 30 saves, many of which came after his defensive mates let him down.
Jacob Cardiff scored the only goal of the game late in the first period. The Chiefs then had to sweat it out for about 42 minutes to secure only the third shutout of the season.
The win also moved the Chiefs (29-23-5-3, 66 points) into third place ahead of Portland in the U.S. Division standings.
“That was a huge win,” Nachbaur said. “We have been scratching and clawing through a tough schedule. But our goalie was good. We made some mistakes, but he stood tall.”
To start the game, the Chiefs and Cougars (32-25-3-1, 68 points) broke out into a skating contest that included equal parts defense and poor puck management.
Keanu Yamamoto got a good look early, but Prince George goalie Nick McBride kept converting shots into saves to keep the game scoreless.
In the meantime, Petersen continually bailed the Chiefs out when players lost the puck and led to Cougars racing the wrong way.
Then with 2:23 left in the opening period, Markson Bechtold lured the defense to him and fired a brilliant pass to a wide-open Cardiff, who got the puck past McBride to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t see the pass,” Cardiff admitted after the game. “The defenseman on Bechtold covered my view. I put my stick out and the puck just landed there. I’ve got to give that one to (Bechtold). He set that one up pretty nicely.”
The Chiefs got Nik Anderson back from the injured list, but again took the ice without leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto, team captain Jason Fram and forward Wyatt Johnson.
Unlike recent games, the Chiefs never seemed to lose energy and continually challenged the puck to shut down opportunities for the Cougars.
But late in the second period, the Chiefs gave up a possession during a power play and nearly gave up a short-handed goal. But Petersen saved the day.
“I had to defend a lot of shots. That’s always fun,” Petersen said. “Those are two huge points for us. We’ll take every point we can get to get a big push for the playoffs.”
The Chiefs kept the pressure on in the third period and got several good looks, but they could not add to the lead.
The Cougars pulled McBride, who made 29 saves, with 1:08 to play, but Peterson made a couple more huge saves to secure the victory.
“Petersen was good tonight,” Cardiff said. “We definitely had a challenge on our end because McBride is a good goalie.”
Cardiff said he was surprised that the first goal of the game also became the last.
“You don’t expect that to happen … with all the chances that both teams had,” he said. “It was kind of a crazy game.”
The Chiefs now only have four home games left. They next play Friday night against the same Prince George Cougars.
“We have to take advantage of these home games,” Cardiff said, “before we go out on the road next week.”
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