WHL’s U.S. Division Leaders

By Glen Crichton

The Spokane Chiefs have bolted from the starting blocks and it looks like they’ll be a tough lot to handle. With a rock solid defence, a skilled and gritty group up front as well as a pleasant surprise in the play of Barry Brust between the pipes. Many a hockey forum saw Spokane fans calling for management to bolster the goaltending, however Chief management appears to have known what they were doing as Brust has been solid. They’ll need for him to be continue his solid play as the Chiefs are currently holding onto a slim one point edge with fourteen points from a 7-1 start over the Portland WinterHawks thirteen points from a 6-2-0-1 record.

Led up front by a group of skilled and hardworking forwards, the Chiefs bring their lunch buckets to every game. Skilled forwards Jeff Lucky, Tim Krymusa, seventeen year old Brad Schell, Mason Wallin and Matt Keith all share in the Chiefs scoring depth, however none take a night off when it comes to their defensive duties either. Brandon Cote is a rock solid defensive forward who brings a lot of leadership and heart to the chiefs line up while others like Joff Kohler, Jevon Desautels and Justin Keller play solid two way hockey. The Chiefs have a waft of young forwards on the roster as well, which bodes well for the future. Also, the Chiefs should be getting second year winger/centre Barry Horman, who should add some more depth to the Chiefs current crop of forwards. Ganchar has the entire group playing solid two way hockey and all I can say is, “it must be fun to play up front on a team as strong on the back end as the Chiefs are.

Led by the skilled and physical Kurt Sauer, a surprise returnee by the Colorado Avalanche, the Chiefs have a defence that makes Fort Knox look like a cardboard box. Sauer, twenty year old David Boychuk, Chris Barr and Jordan Clarke all bring size and toughness to the party, while all are able to handle the puck to varying degrees. Chris Heid and Steven Mann provide the quarterbacking from the back end and while at times can be a bit of a liability in their own end, Coach Ganchar has the pairings set up so that the players strengths compliment each other. Youngster Scott Scherger has managed to pry his way into this solid group and should learn a ton from these guys. Overall, this group can play it physical and nasty, but as mentioned Heid and Mann, as well as Sauer are also more than capable of getting the puck out on time.

Some say Brust is a playing well because of the team defence, however the people I’ve spoken to who see Barry on a regular basis say the kid has bordered on spectacular a lot of nights. This must be a welcome surprise for many Chiefs fans, who as I said, were worried this was going to be the Chiefs Achilles heel this season. However, Brust has solid numbers, sporting a 6-1 record with a 2.00 GAA and an impressive .929 save percentage. He might have a solid defence in front of him, but stopping well over ninety percent of the shots is great and he’s the man doing it. To shore up the position in case Brust is hurt or struggles, the Chiefs picked up nineteen year old goaltender Tony Kolewaski from the Saskatoon Blades who should provide adequate goaltending in relief.

If the Chiefs stay healthy and Brust continues his solid play, the Chiefs will give any team all they can handle and more come playoff time, however the Chiefs, like the Kamloops Blazers, have played most of their games at home and have yet to make an extended trip away from home. I still look for the Chiefs to be the team to beat in the US division, while the Winterhawks should be nipping at their heels all season long.