April 7, 2009 in Sports

Chiefs need to get started

By The Spokesman-Review
 

WHL playoffs

Chiefs vs. Giants

Best-of-7

Game 1: Vancouver 3, Spokane 1

Game 2: Vancouver 4, Spokane 1

Tonight: at Spokane, 7

Wednesday: at Spokane, 7 p.m.

Friday: at Vancouver, 7:30 p.m.*

Sunday: at Spokane, 6 p.m.*

April 14: at Vancouver, 7*

*-if necessary

•All games on Comcast Ch. 79 and 1510-AM radio.

History suggests that in order for the Spokane Chiefs to have improved odds of extending their Western Hockey League playoff run, they’ll need a victory tonight.

The best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series between the defending WHL and Memorial Cup champion Chiefs (4-3) and the top-seeded Vancouver Giants (6-0) – who won the Memorial Cup in 2007 – moves to the Spokane Arena tonight for the third game of the series.

The puck drops at 7, and unless the Chiefs – who are down 2-0 in the series after losing Friday and Saturday nights in Vancouver, British Columbia – earn back-to-back victories over the Giants tonight and Wednesday night, these could be their final two games of the season at home.

“We felt we did some good things in Games 1 and 2, but not enough and not for long enough periods of time,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “We’re looking to come home and put in a good effort and come up with the good result we’re looking for.”

In sticking with one of the oldest clichés in the book, though, the Chiefs are taking it one game at a time.

That could be a pretty important philosophy for tonight’s game, considering only one team in WHL history has been able to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series. Coincidentally, that was the 1996 Spokane Chiefs, who were down 3-0 to the Portland Winter Hawks before going on a four-game tear to win the series.

“I think our mood is accurate for the scenario that we’re in,” Sauter said. “We obviously need to come up with a big effort and I have faith that our guys can do that. Our demeanor (in practice Monday) was concentrated regarding Game 3 rather than focusing on the big picture of the series.

“We can’t win Game 4 (tonight) and we can’t win Game 7 (tonight). What we can do is put in a concentrated effort and do what we can to win Game 3.”

In order to do so, Sauter added, the Chiefs will need to eliminate costly errors and play a solid 60 minutes.

In the first two games, Spokane made at least two devastating mistakes on the penalty kill – both of which allowed Vancouver to score goals – and a handful of other “poor decisions,” according to Sauter, that also cost the Chiefs.

Sauter and the Chiefs reviewed video before practice on Monday and went over what they can do to correct the errors in future scenarios.

“For the most part we match up OK with them,” Sauter explained. “But we’ve made some glaring mistakes in both games that they capitalized on for their goals. It goes without saying that we have to minimize – or ideally eliminate – the really glaring mistakes.

“It’s going to come down to putting in a consistent 60-minute effort. We’ve been excellent at times, so really we have to get rid of the poor play and if that means backing off some of the excellence to stay good the whole time, that’s fine.”

Ice chips

Tickets are still available for tonight’s and Wednesday’s games, which will both be televised on Comcast channel 79. … Spokane welcomed defenseman Mike Reddington – who missed the last eight games with an illness – back to the ice over the weekend. The Chiefs are still without Jared Cowen (out for season, knee) and Cory Baldwin (week-to-week, hand). … Spokane was 26-10 on home ice during the regular season. … A total of 26 players in this series have Memorial Cup rings, nine left over from the 2007 Giants and 17 from the Chiefs last season.


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