It’s amazing the difference one period makes.
Down 2-0 after a sluggish start, the home team found its jump in the second period then held on late to secure a second straight home win.
Cole Wadsworth scored the go-ahead goal, his first in the WHL, midway through the third period, and the Spokane Chiefs beat the Brandon Wheat Kings 3-2 in the only matchup between the two Western Hockey League teams this season at the Arena on Saturday.
It’s the first time an Eastern Division team has visited the Spokane Arena since before the pandemic. Brandon’s last win in Spokane was in October 2015.
Spokane’s Berkly Catton scored a pair of second-period goals to tie the game.
“We have lots of confidence in the room,” Catton said. “We knew that (the first) wasn’t our best period, but the best thing is we did it in the first and not the third. We got better each and every shift.”
The Chiefs (4-3-0-0) came out flying in the third and were rewarded for it midway through the frame. After some sustained pressure, Chase Harrington won the puck in the crease and drew goalie Ethan Eskit’s attention. Harrington slid it to Wadsworth on the far post, and the second-year player banged it home into what had become an empty net.
“It felt great,” Wadsworth said of his first marker in 55 WHL appearances. “It was sitting in front of the net, I just put my stick down on the ice and shot it toward the net.”
The Chiefs clung to the one-goal lead down the stretch. Brandon pulled Eskit with 90 seconds left and a shot from the point hit the crossbar with 40 seconds to go, but the visitors did not find the equalizer.
“In fairness to (Brandon), they’re on the road. Had a game last night,” Chiefs coach Ryan Smith said. “Maybe they wore out a little bit. But credit to them, that was a real good game out there tonight.”
Spokane landed several big hits in the first five minutes of the game, trying to be physical with a team that won at Tri-City the previous night and was playing in the second of a five-game road trip.
Brandon (5-4-1-0) withstood the early onslaught and struck first with just under 9 minutes left in the first period. Anthony Wilson came in on a rush, split the defense then slipped a backhander through the five-hole for his first goal of the season.
The Wheaties made it 2-0 at the 15-minute mark. Playing at four-on-four, Wilson circled at the blue line then walked right down the slot and sent a wrister past Cowan.
“The first five minutes was really good hockey, probably the fastest we’ve seen this year, on both sides,” Smith said. “(Brandon) is a very, very speedy team and skilled – and they showed that in the first period.”
Catton drew a hooking penalty 41/2 minutes into the second period for the first power play for either team. The Chiefs put on sustained pressure and got several shots on goal, but Eskit was equal to the task.
Catton was hauled down again with just more than 5 minutes left in the stanza. Conner Roulette won the draw back to Brayden Crampton, who found Catton at the right dot for a one-timer and a power-play goal, Catton’s fifth overall of the season.
“It came off my stick pretty good,” Catton said. “It was lucky to go in.”
“When you’re getting shut out and not getting any puck luck, that one goal can change the way the game’s gonna go,” Smith said. “It got us going.”
Catton tied it moments later, carrying it in from the left wing and burying it past Eskit with 2:31 left in the frame.
“We had guys going to the net, which creates the space,” Smith said. “Berkly had patience, picked his spot in a small area to get it in. It lifted our confidence even more.”
Winger Ty Cheveldayoff missed the contest as a result of a game misconduct penalty in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Kamloops.
Wild boss: Former Spokane Flyer Roy Sommer was hired to replace Kevin Constantine as coach of the Wenatchee Wild after Constantine was fired for making “derogatory comments of a discriminatory nature.”
Sommer spent the previous 25 years as a head coach in the AHL and holds the all-time AHL coaching records of 828 wins and 1,813 games.
Sommer was with the Flyers during the 1978-79 season in the short-lived minor pro Pacific Hockey League with 19 goals, 49 points and 196 penalty minutes in 45 games.