The Spokane Chiefs had the league’s best power-play unit during the regular season. Now that the playoffs have started, the team isn’t letting up.
The Chiefs scored three times on five power-play chances Friday night on their way to a 5-2 win in Game 1 of their Western Hockey League first-round playoff series against the Portland Winterhawks at the Arena.
Bailey Brkin made 34 saves in the win. Riley Woods had a goal and an assist, while Ty Smith and Eli Zummack each had two assists.
While the power play was a highlight, the Chiefs took eight penalties and surrendered two power-play goals – the second one on a 5-on-3 late in the third period.
The Chiefs took three penalties in the first period, leading to Portland’s big 17-9 shot advantage. Jake Gricius took advantage of the second Chiefs penalty – a hooking call on Luke Toporowski – to give Portland a 1-0 lead.
“I thought in the first period we weren’t moving our feet enough and it cost us,” Chiefs head coach Dan Lambert said. “It allowed (Portland) to get on the board and get momentum. In the second, we settled down a little bit.”
The tide turned late in the first when John Ludvig got a 5-minute major and a game misconduct after a check to Ethan McIndoe’s head. The penalty carried over into the second period, and Adam Beckman made Portland pay when he put a rebound past goaltender Joel Hofer at 3:08.
Woods gave Spokane the lead on the power play at 12:02. Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored 25 seconds into another power play, giving Spokane a 3-1 lead at 17:56 of the second.
“Our power play stepped up big, but we took way too many penalties,” Anderson-Dolan said. “(Portland) has a good power play and (Joachim) Blichfeld can shoot the puck well. That’s going to be a key going into tomorrow, is cutting down the penalties.”
The Chiefs enjoyed some solid depth this season and it came in handy. Spokane was missing Jake McGrew, who was out for an undisclosed reason. McGrew was second on the team in goals in the regular season.
Nolan Reid took a stick to the face 7:15 into the game and never returned, leaving the team shorthanded on the back end.
But the depth came through, with fourth-liner Kaden Hanas scoring his first career goal in the WHL at 3:34 of the third to give Spokane a 4-1 lead. Hanas started the play by leveling Clay Hanus in the corner. Michael King kept the puck in the zone and got it to Hanas, who slid it past Hofer.
“You’re not going to have success unless you have depth,” Lambert said. “You can’t have success unless guys step up, and lucky for us we had that, and we’ve had it lately. It’s very important for us to continue to get guys who maybe aren’t known for scoring to step up.”
McIndoe scored 50 seconds later after taking a nice feed from Zummack, who was set up behind the net.
Blichfeld scored Portland’s second goal with 57 seconds remaining on a 5-on-3 power play.
Even with Ludvig’s ejection, the 16 combined penalties weren’t all the result of emotions spilling over, Lambert said.
“This was the first game, and we knew there were going to be some nerves with us being at home and everything else,” Lambert said. “I thought there were times where it wasn’t so much emotion, but we weren’t moving our feet tonight. That’s why we took some penalties.”
Portland was missing Cody Glass, who’s been out with a lower-body injury for a number of weeks. Glass was expected to be back for the playoffs and could still return.
The Chiefs and Winterhawks will waste no time getting to Game 2. The teams hit the ice again Saturday at the Arena.
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