KITCHENER, Ont. - The Spokane Chiefs were at their suffocating best in a 2-1 win over the Kitchener Rangers at the Memorial Cup on Sunday.
The Western Hockey League champions' calling card is taking away time and space from the opposition and they executed that style much better than in the previous night's 5-4 overtime win over the Belleville Bulls.
"If we stick to our systems and get pucks in deep, we're not playing that river hockey game where you're going back and forth," Spokane captain Chris Bruton said. "We're a systematic team and tonight we did that and that's Chiefs hockey."
Spokane's reward for a 2-0 record is a guaranteed berth in Friday's semifinal.
But the Chiefs can get the bye to Sunday's championship game either with a Belleville win over Gatineau on Monday or by beating the Olympiques themselves on Tuesday.
"I'm cheering for who tomorrow? Belleville? Is that what I'm doing?" Chiefs head coach Bill Peters joked. "No, we've played twice and won twice so what more can you ask for?"
Drayson Bowman had a goal and an assist for the Chiefs. The Carolina Hurricanes draft pick leads the tournament in scoring with four goals and two assists.
Mitch Wahl, a prospect for the NHL draft next month, contributed two assists. Defenceman Justin Falk, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, also scored for Spokane.
Dustin Tokarski made 36 saves for his second victory of the tournament. He's ranked No. 9 among North American goaltenders by Central Scouting for the draft.
While he faced a lot of rubber, the defence in front of him kept shots to the outside where he could see them.
The host and Ontario Hockey League champion Rangers briefly led 1-0 on Matt Halischuk's short-handed goal in the first period.
Staggered penalties to Spokane's Stefan Ulmer and Falk gave Kitchener a two-man advantage for 45 seconds to start the third period. But Kitchener was unable to get the tying goal then or for the rest of the game, much to the disappointment of the pro-Rangers 6,668 at Memorial Auditorium.
Both clubs were 0-for-4 on the power play.
"I think the five-on-three at the beginning of the third was our turning point," Rangers head coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've been money in those situations pretty much all year and tonight we weren't.
"You're not going to win many games at this tournament scoring one goal."
Chicago Blackhawks prospect Josh Unice stopped 28 shots in the loss. The Rangers are idle for two days and face Belleville on Wednesday.
Kitchener's top line of Halischuk, Justin Azevedo and Nick Spaling combined for nine points in the opening game of the tournament, but was smothered by Spokane's checking trio of Levko Koper, Justin McCrae and Jared Spurgeon.
"They're right on them and giving them not an inch," said Bruton. "To have a line like that committed to shutting down their top line, it's a great bonus for us."
Peters was happy to see his top forward trio of Wahl, Bowman and Bruton rein in their game to play tighter defensively, while still producing.
"They didn't score three or four goals like they had in Game 1, but weren't such a high-risk unit," he said.
The Chiefs swept Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League final May 7 and had over a week's rest heading into the tournament.
That was a double-edged sword for the club as they showed some game rust Saturday against Belleville, but had the legs to beat Kitchener in their second game in as many nights.
"We weren't going to practise originally if we got off to a 2-0 start, but I think we need to," Peters said. "We'll stay on the ice and stay in the rhythm of being on the ice."
Wahl inherited the Chiefs' yellow hard hat from Bowman the previous night and was relieved to be going into a day off with the best record in the tournament.
"That's a really good feeling," he said. "We knew the stakes coming into this game and went out there and got a win."
Bowman scored what turned out to be the game winner at 5:24 of the second period. He collected a drop pass from Wahl in the high slot and beat Unice with a wrist shot.
Falk evened the score at 16:45 of the first period with a shot from the blue-line and Wahl providing traffic in front of Unice.
Halischuk's short-handed goal energized the Rangers faithful at 'The Aud' at 4:21.
The New Jersey Devils' prospect corralled Trevor Glass's pass at the Rangers blue-line and beat Tokarski five-hole on his ensuing breakaway.
Notes: Kitchener defenceman and Montreal Canadiens prospect Yannick Weber played his first game since injuring his ankle in Game 4 of the Ontario Hockey League final series. DeBoer said his plan was to use him sparingly, but he ended up playing 30 minutes. Forward Scott Tregunna continued fill in on the blue-line in place of Robert Bortuzzo (shoulder) . . . This year's Memorial Cup opened with back-to-back overtime games for only the second time in the tournament's history. London beat Rimouski and Ottawa edged Kelowna in extra time to start the 2005 Memorial Cup in London.