Spokane Chiefs rally around injured teammate, beat Regina 5-2 to strengthen hold on playoff spot

Feb. 23—Injuries are part of sports, but athletes are trained to pick up their teammates and carry on. It's the nature of the business.

It's no different for the Spokane Chiefs, who saw one of their own go down in horrifying fashion on Friday. But the Chiefs rallied for their "brother" and defeated the Regina Pats 5-2 in a Western Hockey League game at the Arena.

Chiefs (24-26-4-1) stayed two points behind Kelowna for seventh place in the Western Conference and moved eight points ahead of Tri-City for the final playoff spot with 13 games left in the regular season.

"I thought our first period we really struggled," Chiefs coach Ryan Smith said. "I thought our second we got better. And our third was really our best period, which I guess is the way you want to trend."

Tied at 2 early in the third, Regina's Jaxson Vaughn delivered a devastating open ice knee-to-knee hit on center Rasmus Ekström, who went down at center ice in considerable pain. Shea Van Olm stood up for Ekström and fought Vaughn, and Ekström had to be carried off the ice by teammates.

Vaughn received a 5-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct.

Van Olm received an instigator penalty and the teams played 4-on-4 for 2 minutes before the Chiefs went on the power play.

"You never want to see a guy go down and we're still waiting for an update," Van Olm said. "I think it was a good response. ... I think there's 20 guys in there that would have stuck up for their teammate — I was just the one that was right beside him. We're brothers in there and we're all gonna stick up for each other equally."

"Shea's played in two Memorial Cups back-to-back, I think he's seen what a hockey game looks like, so I'm not shocked," Smith said. "We knew that when we got him. And, you know, I think what happened with (Ekström) and when a guy steps up, I think (Van Olm) did it the right away, which we can appreciate. And I think (Ekström) appreciated, but we have a lot of guys that can step up and do that."

With 1:16 left in the advantage, the Chiefs struck. Chase Bertholet carried into the zone and found Conner Roulette open in the high slot. Roulette's wrist shot, his 36th goal of the year, gave the Chiefs a 3-2 lead 4 minutes into the period.

"It was a big hit. It was a 5-minute penalty," Smith said. "You can respond one way or the other. You can kind of think about and dwell on that or you can take advantage and we got the winning goal because of that play by them. I loved their response."

It stayed that way until 2:13 left in the game when Ben Bonni added an insurance goal, his sixth of the season, from Van Olm. Moments later, Berkly Catton added an empty-net goal from center ice, his team leading 42nd of the season.

Tye Spencer and Braxton Whitehead gave the Pats (21-30-4-2) a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.

At the 11-minute mark, Chiefs forwards Lukas Kral and Hayden Paupanekis entered the zone with speed. A defender poke-checked the puck from Kral, but it went straight to Paupanekis, who blasted a slap shot past goalie Ewan Huet for his ninth goal of the season.

The Chiefs tied it up midway through the second period with a power-play goal by Tu Cheveldayoff, his ninth goal of the season.

The 20-year-old winger took a pass from Roulette as he was cruising down on the left wing, and his snap shot from the dot beat Huet.