Spokane Chiefs fans would be hard-pressed to come up with a worse period than Wednesday's first period that ended with Victoria leading 4-0 in Game 3 of the Western Hockey League playoffs. The Chiefs were held to one shot on goal through the first 11 minutes and trailed 1-0 after 11 seconds. Victoria can clinch the series win Thursday at the Arena. Read story
The Chiefs' performance baffled coach Don Nachbaur, who had been heartened by how hard the team played during two overtime losses in Victoria.
“Let’s not take any of the credit away,” Nachbaur said. “(The Royals are) a good team, but I think at the end of the day we’re a better team than we performed tonight. It really comes down to our guys’ wills. We made some mistakes that we paid the price on and we have to regroup for Game 4. We have to show more pride than we showed tonight.”
Austin Carroll, who led the Royals with two goals and one assist, said his team was just as surprised by the quick start.
“We had a very good first shift … that really got us going, and from there we tried to build off it,” Carroll said. “But no, going into the game we thought it would be another close battle.”
The Royals scored two power-play goals while not being whistled for any penalties in the first period. Spokane's first power-play chance didn't come until the eighth minute of the second period. The Chiefs' only other power-play chance came during the game's final 44 seconds.
Spokane showed some spark in the second period, holding the Royals without a shot for more than 10 minutes. But when the Chiefs finally scored, on a hard-working play by Liam Stewart, Victoria needed less than 30 seconds to get the goal back.
Brandon Magee continued to be a thorn in Spokane's side, recording three assists to give him six points for the series.
Jason Fram assisted on Stewart's goal to give him a Chiefs-best three points for the series.
Spokane's big scorers during the regular season, overage players Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani, have been held to one assist apiece by the Royals, who led the Western Conference in fewest goals allowed. Holmberg has 29 points in 40 career playoff games.
Spokane's Adam Helewka, who had 50 points during the regular season, hasn't notched a point in the series.
Whether the Chiefs can muster a win and force a Game 5 in Victoria depends on pride, Nachbaur said.
“All they have to do is look at the name on the back,” he said. “In sport, you can’t go out there and embarrass yourself where you’re not competing, you’re not working hard. I thought we got outcompeted in every department tonight.”