As the truncated and unusual 2021 Western Hockey League season enters the final turn, the Spokane Chiefs are treating the remaining games with a playoff mindset. After all, there are no playoffs to be had this season.
That mindset came in handy Saturday night at the Arena, as Spokane’s offense erupted for an 8-3 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds. Spokane controlled the game from the start and never let off the gas.
Adam Beckman had his second hat trick in as many games to lead Spokane. The Chiefs spread the scoring around, as five others also scored goals, including rookie Ben Thornton getting the first of his career.
Campbell Arnold stopped 25 shots in net for Spokane. Seattle’s Jackson Berry allowed six goals through two periods before being replaced by rookie Scott Ratzlaff.
The Chiefs were able to rely on their entire lineup.
“Our ‘D’ were really good at transitioning and getting pucks up to our forwards,” Chiefs head coach Adam Maglio said. “The individual lines played well, so it seemed like we had better chemistry.”
That chemistry was evident from the jump, and largely a result of the return of two key contributors who hadn’t donned a Chiefs sweater in a while.
Luke Toporowski was in the lineup for the first time this season after spending the majority of the winter and spring playing in the United States Hockey League. Defenseman Graham Sward was back for the first time since March 27 after recovering from an upper-body injury.
Neither player recorded any points, but both helped Spokane even out its lineup and provided a veteran presence.
“(Toporowski) is a veteran player who’s played 30-plus games this year already so he can step right in, which he did tonight,” Maglio said.
“He adds some speed to the lineup and plays the game hard. Just adding him helps us balance lines and gives us more threats up front.”
Sward lined up on Spokane’s third defensive pairing. Maglio said the team wanted to ease in Sward, based on the defenseman’s long layoff.
The Chiefs’ got the game’s first goal when Eli Zummack scored his eighth of the season 3:48 into the game. Copeland Fricker scored his second of the season for Spokane to make it 2-0 at 9:23 after two Seattle defenders skated to Owen MacNeil, leaving Fricker wide open in front of the net and available to take a pass from MacNeil.
Jared Davidson got Seattle on the board when he tipped in a shot from the point a little more than a minute later.
Spokane opened the floodgates with a four-goal second period. The Chiefs got power-play goals from Beckman and Blake Swetlikoff, as well as a rocket from Matt Leduc to extend the lead. Beckman added his second of the game late in the second period. Seattle’s Cade McNelly scored the Thunderbirds’ lone goal in the second at 4:37.
Keltie Jeri-Leon scored for Seattle in the third, but Beckman completed the hat trick with a shorthanded goal at 13:24 and Thornton got his goal at 16:08.
Spokane scored on 2 of 4 power-play opportunities, and Thornton’s goal came just after another power play had expired.
The Chiefs killed their three penalties and the shorthanded goal was the cherry on top.
“The group we use for power plays and penalty kills are elite players,” Maglio said. “I like how we can use some of our more offensive guys on the kill. I think it puts power-play units on their heels a little bit.”
The Chiefs now have three shorthanded goals this season.
Twelve different players got on the scoresheet for Spokane. Defenseman Raegan Wiles was on the ice for five goals at either even strength or shorthanded, giving him an impressive plus-5 rating.
Spokane is back in action Sunday when it hosts the Everett Silvertips. The Chiefs play their final five games in eight nights, including the final three in three nights next weekend.
“We have five left and we need to continue to come out and work hard and improve because at the end of the day that’s what we’re here to do,” Beckman said. “I think if we continue to work hard and have success it’ll be lots of fun down the stretch.”
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