It’s too bad “almost” doesn’t count – because the Spokane Chiefs nearly came up with a big comeback Tuesday night.
But despite outshooting the Medicine Hat Tigers by 21 shots, and scoring twice in the third period to tie the game, the Chiefs dropped their second straight contest – a 3-2 Western Hockey League setback to the Tigers at the Arena.
“I think tonight was one of our better games lately,” Chiefs captain Justin McCrae said. “We played pretty solid – everyone worked hard for the entire game, but the bounces weren’t going for us in the first half of the game. But the guys stuck with it.”
The Tigers got on the board when Mark Isherwood scored 6 minutes, 5 seconds into the opening period when he followed up on the rebound of Colton Grant’s 1-on-1 shot on Spokane goalie James Reid, who finished with 22 saves.
Medicine Hat extended its lead to 2-0 in the second period when Josh Koper, cousin of Spokane’s Levko Koper, scored on a scramble in front of the net at 2:30.
“The first one I would blame the skaters for not picking up the second guy,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “The second one – there was a number of things there. The icing call we didn’t like, but we understand it’s a judgment call, then we lost the face-off, we had the puck, then we lost the puck and didn’t box out and take away the rebound.
“There were numerous things that could have prevented that one.”
It seemed as if numerous things kept preventing the Chiefs from scoring, but they kept putting pucks on the net and were finally rewarded in the third period when Jared Spurgeon scored a power-play goal from the low slot that bounced off the crossbar into the net past Tigers goalie Ryan Holfeld at 7:36.
A little more than a minute later, Blake Gal – whose brother, Taylor Gal, plays for the Tigers – sneaked the puck through Holfeld’s five-hole to knot the score at 2.
But Medicine Hat regained the lead when Sean Ringrose scored the game-winning goal at 13:57, and Holfeld and the Tigers held off Spokane in the final 6 minutes of the game.
“Both goals in the third were the result of the hard work we put in for the first two periods, and it’s too bad, obviously, that they scored a not-so-great goal to end up winning,” Sauter said. “Overall, I thought our guys put in a great effort and played the game the way we hoped they would play.
“Tonight we asked the guys to work hard and put pucks on the net and I think we got both.”
The Chiefs played without starting goalie Dustin Tokarski and four of their top five scorers in their last game before a 10-day holiday break.
“I think everyone’s definitely excited to go home and take a couple of days just to relax – it’s been a long season already, especially when we didn’t get a very long summer,” McCrae said.
The Chiefs will return to action Dec. 27 when they host the Tri-City Americans (23-8-0-2, 48 points), who have a five-point lead over Spokane (20-11-0-3, 43 points) in the U.S. Division standings.
Spokane D Mike Reddington (groin, day to day) was scratched from the lineup, along with forwards Mitch Wahl, Drayson Bowman and Tyler Johnson, who have all gone to play for Team USA at the World Junior Championships from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ottawa, Ontario. Tokarski has gone to play for Team Canada at the same tournament, and D Stefan Ulmer has gone to play for Team Austria at the Division I Group B IIHF World Under-20 Championships through Dec. 21. Ulmer had three assists in Austria’s (2-0) 6-2 victory over Ukraine on Tuesday and is tied for the tournament lead in scoring with a goal and four assists in two games. … Fifteen-year-old Tanner Mort, a Post Falls native, was called up to play for Spokane.