At this point in the exhibition season last year, the Spokane Chiefs had three wins and zero losses.
This season the Chiefs are 1-2 after dropping two of three games at last weekend’s Everett Silvertips tournament. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that the Chiefs’ preseason record – through the first three games anyway – wasn’t the top priority for new head coach Hardy Sauter.
Sauter said that winning games will be a little more of the focus when the Chiefs take on the Silvertips today and Tri-City on Saturday at the Tri-City Americans’ tournament in Kennewick.
“We lost two out of three over the weekend, but having said that we got a real good evaluation of our younger players,” Sauter said.
Sauter dressed four 15-year-old prospects – who are too young to make this year’s roster – and several other younger rookies in the tournament.
“We created a lot of scoring chances,” he said. “We didn’t score on very many of them, but all of those younger kids played really well and showed us that they will either play next year for the Chiefs or the year after, and that’s a big plus for our team.”
Another big plus for the team was the play of the older veterans, whom Sauter said made sure everyone knew what the expectations were on and off the ice.
Last season’s leading scorer, Drayson Bowman, wasn’t with the team for the Everett tournament, but will rejoin the team Friday in Kennewick and play in Saturday’s game against the Americans.
“Without the (four 15-year-olds) we will expect the lineup this week to have a little more finish, a little more size and a little more speed,” Sauter said. “Will that translate into more goals? I hope so. We had a few days to work on a couple of things this week and I at least want to see the execution of a game plan.”
Sauter will also get bench time with his new colleague Leigh Mendelson, who was officially announced as the Chiefs new assistant coach on Tuesday.
“We’ve gone through two practices,” Sauter said. “He’ll get a game under his belt (today) and then next week we’ll make sure he gets his feet wet with how the video stuff works.
“It’s nice to have someone in place, now it’s just a matter of building momentum and getting some wins in the preseason and getting ready for the regular season.”
Roman still home
Import forward Ondrej Roman, who spent most of last season as the Chiefs’ second-line center, is still at home in the Czech Republic waiting for his release from the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Sauter said that the Chiefs expect a positive outcome to the situation but that it is still unclear when the Dallas Stars 2006 draft pick will return to Spokane.
“To be quite honest, it’s a situation we’ve rarely talked about lately only because we believe it’s going to be resolved and that he’ll still be available to us this season,” Sauter said. “We feel it will be a positive outcome, so the only thing nobody knows is a time frame and it’s so far out of our control that we just haven’t focused on it much.”
Single-game tickets for the regular season go on sale today at 9 a.m. through the Chiefs office at 328-0450 or TicketsWest at 1-800-325-SEAT. The Chiefs open the regular season Sept. 18 in Cranbrook, British Columbia, against the Kootenay Ice and play their home opener on Sept. 27 at the Arena against Tri-City. … The Chiefs’ roster has been cut to 29 players – three goalies, 11 defenseman and 15 forwards. They released three of four 15-year-olds at the beginning of the week. Post Falls native Tanner Mort will stay on the roster through the weekend. Sauter said he may or may not play.