If coach Hardy Sauter is thankful for something recently, it’s the way his Spokane Chiefs wrapped up their six-game swing throughout the Canadian Provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“Out record should have probably been 4-2,” Sauter said of Spokane’s longest road trip of this Western Hockey League regular season.
The Chiefs went 3-3 on the trip – which officially began with Spokane’s 3-2 victory over the Prince Albert (Saskatchewan) Raiders on Nov. 14 – which included stops in Saskatoon, Brandon, Regina, Moose Jaw and Swift Current before the Chiefs arrived home last weekend
After the narrow victory over Prince Albert, Spokane went on a three-game slide. The Chiefs lost 2-1 at Saskatoon a night after falling to the Raiders and continued the trip with respective Tuesday and Wednesday night losses at Brandon (4-1) and Regina (2-0).
They were able to salvage some of the trip, though, and pick up victories over Moose Jaw (6-2) and Swift Current (3-2, shootout) last Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“The fact that we played as well and as hard as we did in the last two games of the trip and to get to 3-3 showed me that we still have a lot of character,” Sauter said, adding that if he had to choose between beginning the trip on a winning note or ending on one, he’d choose the latter.
“When you win the last two you feel upbeat, you feel like you’ve accomplished something, you feel like you went there with a purpose.”
McCrae returns to ice
It’s been frustrating for fans, certainly, but only having played in one game this season has been even more maddening for overage forward Justin McCrae.
The Carolina Hurricanes prospect – who has been sidelined with a knee injury since the first game of the season – will return to the ice this weekend.
McCrae has been skating for the last two weeks and officially returned to practice this week to prepare for Friday’s game in Kennewick against the Tri-City Americans and Saturday at the Arena against the Kamloops Blazers.
“I can’t wait to get back out there – it’s the longest injury I’ve ever had,” McCrae said after Wednesday’s practice at the Arena. “It’s been frustrating, but at the same time I’m just really excited.
“I just need to go out and keep things simple for the first little bit and get back into the swing of things.”
McCrae, a right-winger, will probably join LW Drayson Bowman and center Mitch Wahl on Spokane’s top line.
Three Chiefs gone
Defensemen Jared Cowen and Jared Spurgeon and goalie Dustin Tokarski – who’s 1.80 goals-against average is second in the WHL – are currently away representing the WHL at the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge.
The fifth game of the six-game series between select Russian junior players and players from the three leagues of the Canadian Hockey League was played Wednesday night in Swift Current (with no final score available at the time of press), and the final contest is tonight in Prince Albert.
The Russians went 1-1 against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and 0-2 against the Ontario Hockey League.
“Playing the Russians, they’re obviously one of the best European countries at playing hockey, and they will be a dangerous team,” said Cowen prior to the tournament.
“They beat the QMJHL already, so they have that one win under their belt, so we know they can compete.”
Defensemen Mike Reddington (groin) and Trevor Glass (shoulder) will be game-time decisions this weekend.
•Spokane (16-7-0-3) had a one-point lead on Tri-City heading into Wednesday. The Americans played Everett, but the final score wasn’t available at press time.