The Spokane Chiefs’ offensive firepower in their last six games might be enough to melt the snow across the city.
The Chiefs are averaging 5.6 goals per game since Jan. 30 and continued their hot streak with a 5-2 win over the Kootenay Ice at the Arena Saturday in front of 7,131 in attendance.
Rookie Jack Finley had two goals to pace Spokane. Goaltender Bailey Brkin stopped 29 shots in the win. The Chiefs have won five of their last six and are keeping pace in the competitive U.S. Division.
The buckets of goals are nice, but Spokane isn’t necessarily doing anything fancy. Instead, it’s been hard-nosed hockey.
“Guys are going to the dirty areas a lot more and not only going there but staying there and hanging around,” head coach Dan Lambert said. “Whenever you make it hard on goalies to see pucks, it’s hard. Then when you touch a couple, good things happen and I think we’ve done a good job of that.”
Finley’s first goal came off a rebound in front, and his second one was a deflection.
“Coach has been preaching about going to the net and stopping there,” Finley said. “There are great shots for us to tip and two just happened to come my way. It was a pretty big night for me.”
Going to the net is one thing. Stopping there is another, as Finley alluded to. It’s something his coach has noticed.
“That’s why he’s having more success recently,” Lambert said. “I find him going more to the dirty areas rather than hanging out to the side. He’s right in the goalie’s eyes and he’s got good hand-eye coordination to shoot pucks.”
Finley has eight goals on the season and is seeing time on the power play and the penalty kill.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored his eighth of the season 3 minutes, 8 seconds into the game, and Finley got his first a little more than 2 minutes later.
Kootenay’s Martin Bodak got the Ice on the board after deflecting a Peyton Krebs shot. Bodak added another goal in the second period.
Riley Woods scored his 26th of the season on the power play at 9:04 of the first. Finley’s second goal came at 4:34 of the second.
Bobby Russell gave Spokane a nice cushion after he picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone before skating in and avoiding a poke check from Kootenay goaltender Curtis Meger for his fourth of the season at 18:03 of the second.
With a comfortable 5-2 lead in the third period, the Chiefs nearly let Kootenay back in after Cordel Larson took an interference penalty and Luc Smith took a double minor high-sticking penalty about 90 seconds later. The Chiefs killed the Larson penalty but were still down a man for 3 1/2 minutes. A Kootenay goal would have brought the Ice back into the game.
Instead, the Chiefs’ penalty kill came up huge and even forced a rare shorthanded 2-on-0. The Chiefs couldn’t connect on the chance, but the penalty kill stepped up at an opportune time.
“Our PK has been a work in progress and it came up big tonight,” Lambert said. “I thought we took penalties and gave them opportunities to get back in the game, but fortunately for us our PK was solid and I thought Brkin came up big.”
The Chiefs swept the season series against the Ice, winning all five games. This was the last time Spokane will play the Kootenay Ice, as the Cranbrook, British Columbia-based franchise is moving to Winnipeg next season.
The Chiefs are back at the Arena Tuesday to entertain the Red Deer Rebels.
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