Catching a visitor at the tail end of its long road trip always bodes well for the home team.
The Spokane Chiefs proved that Wednesday at the Arena with a 7-1 Western Hockey League win over the Brandon Wheat Kings.
The Wheat Kings, who were coming off a 10-2 drubbing of the Tri-City Americans on Tuesday, are in the midst of a seven-game road trip that features five games against U.S. Division teams. It can be hard to find your footing after spending 10 days in hotels and buses across the U.S. and Western Canada. But the Chiefs weren’t showing any sympathy.
Adam Beckman paced the Chiefs (6-4-1-0, 13 points) with a goal and four assists. Eli Zummack and Filip Kral added a goal and an assist apiece. Jack Finley chipped in two assists and goaltender Campbell Arnold made 18 saves in the win.
Seven players scored goals for Spokane, forcing Brandon (5-8-0-0, 10 points) to use two goaltenders – Ethan Kruger for the first two periods and Connor Ungar in the third.
“I’m happy with the way the kids played. One of the things we wanted to be better at was being more consistent game to game,” Chiefs head coach Manny Viveiros said. “We caught Brandon a little tired. They had a game last night, but that happens to everybody, and we’re happy with the two points.”
Luke Toporowski got things started with his third goal of the season on a nice one-timer off a feed from Beckman at 14 minutes, 21 seconds of the first.
Defenseman Matt Leduc got his first of the season when he took a cross-ice feed from Zummack and had a wide-open net. Leduc also made his presence known with a big hit in the first period.
Leduc missed time earlier this season with an injury. His coach is happy to have him back.
“He’s a real big body, especially on the penalty kill,” Viveiros said. “He’s heavy and hard to play against and always physical.”
The Chiefs applied pressure in the second period, controlling possession and putting 16 shots on net. Three of those shots went in, with Beckman scoring at 6:59 after he raced up the right side before moving to the slot to put the puck past Kruger.
Beckman’s line, which includes Zummack and Cordel Larson, is the team’s top offensive unit.
Larson is taking the place of an injured Jake McGrew, and the chemistry is starting to come together.
“We’ve had our ups and downs as a line, but we had a good night tonight,” Beckman said. “If we’re going to lead the way, we’re going to have to have more nights like this.”
Viveiros praised the line’s 200-foot game.
“Adam can score and create offense but more importantly to me, his line can really play good, defensive hockey,” Viveiros said. “A lot of their chances come after being good defensively. They weren’t playing high-risk hockey. They were in good positions.”
Bear Hughes scored his fourth of the season at 16:38 when he poked in a rebound off a Connor Gabruch shot. Zummack made it 5-0 just 27 seconds later.
Brandon’s Jake Chiasson ended Arnold’s shutout attempt 2:12 into the third when he scored 4 seconds after a Ty Smith penalty ended.
Kral and Michael King added goals for Spokane in the third.
The Chiefs used an unbalanced lineup again, going with 11 forwards and eight defensemen. Viveiros said he’s using that lineup to get more guys some ice time this early in the season. He was able to roll all lines thanks to the big lead.
A possible downside to playing with a large lead is complacency, but Beckman was pleased with how his team resisted the urge to shift into cruise control.
“I think it was important that we all just (calmed) down and played our game and not let the score control the game,” he said. “It’s easy to get into bad habits, but we stuck to our game plan.”
The Chiefs are back at the Arena on Friday to host the Portland Winterhawks.
McGrew out indefinitely
McGrew, one of three 20-year-olds on the Chiefs’ roster, was listed as “out indefinitely” this week on the WHL’s weekly report. McGrew hasn’t played since he needed help getting off the ice on Oct. 6 after a fight with Everett’s Gianni Fairbrother.
McGrew remains on Spokane’s roster and his potential return this season is up in the air.
“It’s going to be a long time, that’s all I can say,” Viveiros said.
McGrew missed his entire 17-year-old season in 2016-2017 due to a knee injury. The San Jose Sharks draft pick had five goals and three assists in six games played this season.
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