Spokane Chiefs coach Ryan Smith was visibly disappointed after Friday’s strong effort against Prince Albert went for naught on a late breakdown.
After two periods when his young team controlled the play, he felt that creep back in after the Chiefs coughed up a two-goal lead in the third period Saturday night.
But unlike Friday, the home team found the resolve to pull out the victory.
Berkly Catton scored two goals with an assist, including the go-ahead goal with 7 minutes remaining, and the Chiefs beat the Kamloops Blazers 6-3 in a Western Hockey League game at a sold-out Arena.
Attendance was 10,295, the first sellout of the season.
Owen Martin scored his second goal of the game a minute later and Chase Bertholet added an empty-netter to seal it.
“To be transparent, I didn’t see that coming,” Smith said of the comeback. “After (Kamloops) tied it up, I think everybody in the building was nervous. We settled down and got that go-ahead goal pretty quickly, which gave us a little bit of confidence and then carried that into the next.”
“That’s really big for us because I count a couple times now that we’ve gotten that situation that’s gone the other way for us,” Catton said. “For us to battle back there, I think that shows a lot about our team and a lot about what we’re going to do in the future coming up here.”
Spokane had good jump early and got on the board first. With Matteo Koci off for goaltender interference, the Chiefs held the offensive zone and Layton Feist’s shot from the point was tipped by Owen Martin past Blazers goalie Jesse Sanche for the 16-year-old’s third goal of the season just 4½ minutes in.
“He’s got good hands,” Smith said of Martin. “He’s a young guy that’s finding his way in a role on the team and it was good to see him score. It’s always good to be rewarded like that.”
Spokane’s Owen Schoettler was whistled for tripping and Kamloops made good, with Dylan Sydor netting his 12th of the season to tie it up moments later.
Just 4½ minutes into the second period, the Chiefs took the lead on Catton’s 10th of the season. The potential top-five pick in next year’s NHL draft took a pass from Conner Roulette at the blue line, skated into the right-wing circle and even though he lost his edge, whipped a wrist shot past Sanche while falling forward on the ice.
“That’s pretty elite play – that stop and pop,” Smith said. “It catches the goalie probably off guard and he’s a top player in the league. The expectation is that he often brings out to the table.”
“It’s an honor to be put in that situation,” Catton said. “For people to think me like that, especially my head coach, that’s pretty cool.”
Catton’s goal seemed to energize the Chiefs, with the home team getting several good looks at the Kamloops goal. Bertholet had a particularly quality shot, but his rebound backhander was brushed aside with the blocker by Sanche, who was still on his pads from a previous save.
The Chiefs owned the better of play the rest of the period, and finally tacked onto the lead with 1:50 left. Catton’s shot from close in caused a goal-mouth scramble with several players in the blue paint. The puck found its way to Roulette at the hash marks, and he chipped it past Sanche for his 14th of the season.
Early in the third period, the Chiefs were caught on a long shift, and Kamloops winger Shea Van Olm bounced it off the side of the cage from behind the net and it went to Sydor in the slot, who chipped a backhander behind Cooper Michaluk to make it a one-goal game.
Spokane winger Carter Streek was called for roughing on a heavy open-ice hit, and it cost the Chiefs. On the ensuing power play Ashton Ferster spun with the puck near the goal line and fed Sydor, who was left alone in the slot. Sydor buried it to knot the game with 8 1/2 minutes left.
The Chiefs answered right back. It was Catton again, as he collected a loose puck in the high slot, put it on his forehand, and fired a wrist shot past Sanche with 6:50 remaining.
Less than a minute later they added insurance. Feist shot a knuckle-puck from the point and Martin, camped in the slot and a defender draped on him, pushed the bouncing puck past Sanche to make it 5-3.
“It was really, really good by our team not to fold,” Smith said. “I thought we played two really good periods to set ourselves up for third and it was nice to see us finish.”