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Reece Klassen earns win in debut as Spokane Chiefs goaltender

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 9, 2019, 10:26 p.m.

You don’t judge a book by its cover and you don’t judge a hockey game by its first period.

The Spokane Chiefs and the fans in attendance Wednesday at the Arena learned that, after the Chiefs peppered Prince George goaltender Taylor Gauthier with 12 shots in the first period – two of which went by him and into the net.

The other two periods, the Chiefs have been better. Ultimately, the lead held up and the Chiefs took home two points in the standings thanks to a 4-2 win. Prince George heads home after an 11-game road trip.

“I thought we were good in the first and then in the second they came at us and we didn’t have a whole lot of pushback,” Chiefs head coach Dan Lambert said. “The third (period) was kind of a ‘blah’ game. We didn’t do a whole lot and there wasn’t a ton of energy on our part.”

There were a number of reasons for the Chiefs’ letdown in the second and third periods – sloppy passes, tepid play in their end, among others.

“It certainly wasn’t out best 60 minutes,” Lambert said.

Reece Klassen got his first start in a Spokane sweater since being acquired on Jan. 2. He only faced 17 shots in goal the entire night, though he had to keep track of Prince George in the Chiefs’ zone for much of the second and third periods.

Klassen introduced himself to the Spokane fans in the second period when he stopped Vladislav Mikhalchuk on a breakaway. Klassen went for the poke check, but had to resort to his glove once that failed.

“Normally, I get them (with the poke check), but he made a good move to get around me,” Klassen said. “The glove was just kind of a reaction.”

Klassen barely avoided disaster in the second period when he came out of his crease to play a puck that was cleared down the ice. Once the puck reached the blue line, though, it slowed down, allowing a Prince George forechecker to get to the puck first with a wide-open net nearby.

Luckily for Klassen, defenseman Ty Smith caught up and was able to break up the play.

“It was great for (Klassen) to get the win,” Lambert said. “Ultimately, he didn’t see a ton of shots, but that save in the second period on a breakaway might have been a game-changer. He looked nervous at times but certainly a good start for him and a good start to his Chiefs career.”

The Chiefs only got two power plays on the night but converted both. It was a much better performance than the last time these teams met in Spokane, when the Chiefs were 0 for 9 with the man advantage.

“Ultimately, it’s the reason we won tonight,” Lambert said. “I am pleased with that. I thought the guys moved (the puck) around well and both units got a goal, which is good to see.”

Nolan Reid scored Spokane’s first power-play goal just 4 minutes, 23 seconds into the game when he sneaked in and put the puck past Taylor Gauthier.

Ty Smith connected on Spokane’s next power play. Jaret Anderson-Dolan won the faceoff straight to Smith, who found a shooting lane just 7 seconds into the man advantage.

Joel Lakusta got Prince George on the board 31 seconds into the second period when he sent a shot past Klassen from the point.

Luc Smith poked in a goal at 12:56 of the third after Eli Zummack put the puck on net. Josh Maser scored for Prince George at 18:50 of the third to cut into Spokane’s lead after the Cougars pulled the goalie.

But a Jake McGrew empty-net goal with 12 seconds remaining sealed the win. McGrew has 14 points in his last nine games and is on a five-game goal streak.

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