For the next couple of weeks, the Spokane Chiefs’ rookies will have even more of an opportunity to show their potential.
For the most part, Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter likes what he has seen so far in that regard, even if the scoreboard didn’t end in Spokane’s favor on Friday night.
“Tonight we had flurries of good, lots of average and probably about eight minutes of below average – obviously that’s not good enough to win,” Sauter said after the Chiefs lost 2-1 to the Kelowna Rockets in a preseason contest at Eagles Ice-A-Rena.
Stepan Novotny and Kyle St. Denis scored second period power-play goals for Kelowna and goalie Dylan Tait made 27 saves to lead the Rockets.
Michael Betz scored Spokane’s lone goal on a deflection of a Brett Bartman shot from inside the right point. Rookie goalie James Reid stopped 34 of 36 shots.
The game opened up a home-and-home series between the two clubs and was Spokane’s lone home game of the Western Hockey League preseason. The Chiefs (3-3 preseason) wrap up their exhibition schedule tonight in Kelowna.
Spokane was playing without six key veterans.
Goalie Dustin Tokarski (Tampa Bay Lightning), forwards Mitch Wahl (Calgary Flames) and Tyler Johnson (Phoenix Coyotes) and defenseman Justin Falk (Minnesota Wild) have all left for their respective NHL camps, while Ondrej Roman (Dallas Stars) is still waiting for his IIHF release in his native Czech Republic.
Defenseman Jared Cowen was available, but scratched from the lineup, as was import blue-liner Stefan Ulmer.
“As you go deeper into preseason the games get more intense, it’s a quicker pace and it takes times to adapt – tonight was another bit of the learning curve (for the rookies),” Sauter said. “At times (in the preseason), every one of our rookies has played really, really well.
“(Forward) Michael Betz scored a goal tonight, Steven Kuhn played real good as a third-line centerman for us, (F) David Conrad had flashes of real good play and both defenseman – Garrett Leedahl and Brenden Kitchton – both played good, too.
“Not great, but good.”
The Rockets were 4 of 6 on the power play, while Spokane was 1 for 3. … Veteran Chiefs forward Levko Koper and Kelowna’s Jesse Paradis were ejected from the game for fighting early in the second period. Late in the game Kelowna’s Curt Gogol and Spokane’s T.C. Cratsenberg were also thrown out for fighting, which is an automatic game misconduct in the preseason. … The defending Memorial Cup champion Chiefs open the regular season Thursday in Cranbrook, British Columbia, against the Kootenay Ice. Spokane’s home opener is Sept. 27 against the Tri-City Americans.