Spokane Chiefs head coach Dan Lambert was looking for a better effort and solid, simple hockey from his team.
After two weekend games in which he lamented his team’s play and particularly the play of his veterans, Lambert got his wish.
The Chiefs were smart with the puck and picked up a 4-1 win over the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. The Chiefs scored two power-play goals and goaltender Bailey Brkin stopped 22 shots in the win.
The Chiefs got two goals from 20-year-old Riley Woods and another from 19-year-old Jake McGrew. Defenseman Ty Smith had three assists and Egor Arbuzov scored his first career goal with his parents in town.
“I thought tonight we played more like a team that was committed to playing the right way,” Lambert said. “Throughout the lineup guys played well.”
The Chiefs deployed a reshuffled lineup against Seattle. They were without Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who missed the game for undisclosed reasons, and got back Filip Kral on the blue line. Kral had been out with an upper-body injury suffered last spring in the playoffs.
Kral recorded four shots on net and gave the Chiefs another offensive-minded defenseman.
“I thought Filip played great. He was very steady back there,” Lambert said. “He just kind of solidified our back end a lot more. He kept things simple, made the right plays. He sees the game and defends well. He really was a little bit of what we needed.”
McGrew opened the scoring with 62 seconds left in the first period. He took a stretch ice pass from Smith and made a nice effort to protect the puck as he circled the net looking for a shooting lane. He finally found one in the slot and put a backhanded shot past Seattle goaltender Liam Hughes.
Woods scored his first goal on the power play at 7:59 of the second period when he put a shot past a screened Hughes.
Seattle’s Dillon Hamaliuk scored the lone Thunderbird goal at 14:40 of the second period after the puck pin-balled in the Spokane zone and landed at his feet in front of an open net.
Woods’ second goal also came on the power play when he carried the puck up the sideboards and into the Seattle zone before putting it past Hughes.
Woods has 10 goals on the season to lead the team.
Woods said Lambert challenged him and the other veterans to make smart plays with the puck.
“As veteran players, we have to contribute a little more than we have been,” Woods said. “I think we did that tonight with our line and out power play. We had video this morning and it was all about getting pucks deep and making their ‘D’ turn. We did that and had a good game.”
Arbuzov’s first career goal came with the net empty at 18:57 of the third period.
In addition to Anderson-Dolan being out, 16-year-old Jack Finley will miss some games as he participates in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge for one of three Team Canada teams competing.
Even with some regulars out of the lineup, the Chiefs have guys ready to step in.
“I think our younger guys stepped up a lot,” Woods said. “That’s what we needed.”
It was a physical game, as Seattle brought a big, veteran lineup to the ice. Each team leveled a number of hits and the game featured two fights, one of which left blood on the ice.
“(Seattle) typically outworks and outcompetes hockey clubs and that’s how they win games,” Lambert said. “I thought we responded to their physicality and it was probably our most physical game as well.”
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