Bear Hughes didn’t have a ton of time to get acclimated to his new teammates, although you wouldn’t know it if you were among the 10,373 fans at the Arena Saturday.
The Post Falls native joined his Spokane Chiefs teammates Friday after his season with the Junior B Spokane Braves ended. Hughes wasted no time introducing himself to Chiefs fans, finishing with two goals. The Chiefs walloped the Tri-City Americans 10-1.
Adam Beckman scored his first career hat trick in the win. Beckman finished his rookie season with 32 goals.
The win ended the regular season for Spokane. The Chiefs will await the result of Sunday’s Seattle-Portland matchup to see if they’ll get home-ice advantage in their first-round playoff series with the Winterhawks.
As it stands, the Chiefs are one point ahead of Portland for second in the U.S. Division. A win by Portland and the two points that go with it will give the Winterhawks home ice.
If Portland picks up one point Sunday night – an overtime or shootout loss – and finishes the season tied with Spokane, the Chiefs will have home ice because Spokane holds the tiebreaker (head-to-head points).
So the Chiefs will be rooting for a Portland loss in any fashion – regulation, overtime or shootout.
Hughes didn’t wait long to get his name on the score sheet. Hughes camped out in front of Tri-City goaltender Talyn Boyko and put a feed from Riley Woods in the net just 1 minute, 55 seconds into the game.
“He has the ability to get to the net, and I think that showed tonight,” Spokane coach Dan Lambert said. “His first goal was a goal-scorer’s goal. Assuming his work ethic in the summer and everything else is good, he’s probably going to score a few more for the Chiefs moving forward.”
Hughes said he practiced about eight times with the Chiefs throughout the season as his Braves schedule allowed, but zero times between the end of the Braves’ season and his WHL debut Friday in Kennewick.
Hughes said there was definitely a difference in the style of play in the WHL compared to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
“The biggest thing is you don’t have as much time when you have the puck,” Hughes said. “You have to move it a lot quicker. Players are bigger, stronger, faster, so you have to make plays sooner.”
Hughes was on a line with veterans Jake McGrew and Riley Woods, which he said was helpful.
“On the two goals, they did most of the work,” Hughes said. “First it was Woods taking it in the zone and taking two guys into the corner, and he just gave me one out front. The second one, McGrew skates it end-to-end and I put in his rebound.”
Hughes’ second goal came at 6:01 of the second period. By then, the rout was on. The Chiefs got goals from Nolan Reid and Ethan McIndoe in the first period, and goals from Beckman – twice – Luc Smith, Cordel Larson and McGrew in the second period.
Beckman completed his hat trick in the third period.
Tri-City’s lone goal came on the only big mistake the Chiefs made. After Spokane turning it over on its blue line during a Chiefs power play, Tri-City skated in 2-on-0 and Nolan Yaremko put it past Bailey Brkin.
The Chiefs’ potent power play was 3 for 3 on the night. The Chiefs ended the season with the league’s top power-play unit.
Brkin made 19 saves and was never under siege. Tri-City didn’t get its first shot on net until the 12-minute mark of the first period. By that time, the Chiefs already had 10 shots on net.
The nine-goal win allowed Spokane to rest some top players in the third period.
“We were able to keep everybody healthy and it was a good game for us. A lot of guys stepped up,” Lambert said.
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