Forward Jake Gudelj scored the game-winning goal at 4:55 of the third to lead the Spokane Chiefs to a 5-4 victory over the Victoria Royals at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Saturday.
The game also saw multi-point performances by Chiefs forwards Tommaso De Luca and Kooper Gizowski, who each recorded a pair of assists in the win, while defenceman Mac Gross counted his team-leading third goal of the season.
It was the second win in as many nights for Spokane (2-0-0-0) who defeated Victoria (0-2-0-0) in the 2022-2023 season opener on Friday.
General Manager and Head Coach Dan Price shared his thoughts about the defensive effort shown by his team over the first two games of the new season:
“That’s far too many goals conceded over the course of two games,” said Price postgame. “Lots of odd-man rushes. We have to make sure we clean our F3 above, making sure we aren’t getting outnumbered on rush attacks towards our net. And a lot of pucks got through to our net from up top, so we have to make sure we’re closing those lanes and just doing a better job around our net front.”
With a 5-4 loss on Saturday and a 7-5 loss on Friday, the Royals have given up 12 goals on a total of 59 shots to begin the season.
Despite the loss, there was cause for celebration for the Royals on Saturday as rookie defencemen Justin Kipkie and Nate Misskey each recorded their first career goals.
“Obviously that goal was awesome for me, it got me off to a great start, but it would have been nice to win tonight,” said Misskey.
“It’s definitely exciting to get that first goal, it’s too bad it came on a loss like that. We need to practice hard this week so we can get some wins,” said Kipkie.
Defenceman Luke Shipley was the top points-getter for Victoria, recording a goal and an assist in the loss, while forward Ryan Spizawka also contributed with a pair of assists.
Royals starting goaltender Tyler Palmer stopped 26 of the 31 shots he faced, while counterpart Cooper Michaluk made 21 saves on 25 shots on the way to his second win of the season for the Chiefs.
Impressions were positive for Victoria to start this one, with forward Riley Gannon (1) giving the Royals an early 1-0 with a goal at the at 7:37 mark of the first period, with fellow forward Ryan Spizawka on the assist.
However, Spokane would respond with a goal of their own by forward Berkly Catton (1) to even the game at 1-1 at 10:28, before taking a one goal lead on defenceman Mac Gross’ third goal of the season at 11:03.
Victoria defenceman Luke Shipley (1) would soon re-tie the game with a powerplay marker at 14:26 – assisted by forwards Carter Dereniwsky and Teague Patton – to bring the score to 2-2 as the game entered the second period.
Neither team could find the back of the net in the middle frame, so the game would head to the third still tied at 2-2.
Spokane defenceman Saige Weintstein (1) would break the deadlock at the 3:17 mark of the third, giving the Chiefs a 3-2 lead.
Moments later, Royals defenceman Justin Kipkie would score his first career WHL goal to even the game at 3-3 at the 4:40 mark. Forward Ryan Spizawka and defenceman Luke Rybinski would collect assists on the goal.
The game would not remain tied for long as Chiefs forward Jake Gudelj (1) gave his team the lead once again at 4:55 of the frame, which would be followed by the eventual game-winner by Spokane defenceman Raegan Wiles (2) at 9:14.
Victoria would pull back within one late in regulation on defenceman Nate Misskey’s first career WHL goal, unassisted at the 10:33 mark of the third, but that was as close as the Royals would get, and time would expire with Spokane taking home a 5-4 win and the series sweep.
Both teams will take the week off to prepare for next weekend’s slate, which will see Spokane host the Kamloops Blazers at the Spokane Arena on Saturday, Oct. 1, while the Royals will travel to the Lower Mainland for a matchup against the Vancouver Giants.
Victoria’s next game will take place at 7:30 pm on Sept. 30 at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, BC.