Rumor has it the Spokane Chiefs can beat the Portland Winterhawks, hard as that may be to believe with the way their three Western Hockey League games have unfolded at the Arena.
The Hawks (22-13-1, 45 points) leap-frogged past the Chiefs (21-10-2, 44) in the U.S. Division standings with a late power play goal for a 3-2 win before 3,766 fans Wednesday night.
“I think quite honestly their goalies have stolen the last two,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “In the first game we just didn’t play well. The second game we lose 2-0 and the second is an empty netter. I thought we out-played them.
“Tonight again you could argue we out-played them and out-scored them and just couldn’t score. Disappointed in the loss but at the same time I think we did a lot of good things.”
What the Chiefs, who out-shot Portland 33-22, couldn’t do was finish, though they many numerous opportunities against Ian Curtis.
“Some nights when things are going good those pucks seem to land on your sticks,” Sauter said. “Some nights when it’s a little rougher sledding it’s not as easy, you have to dig a little extra or almost guess where the puck’s going to be and then not go there.
“It’s just too bad because I thought we did generate enough good chances to win.”
The difference was Nino Niederreiter’s power play goal at 13:50 of the third period. He notched his 21st when Ryan Johansen’s pass from behind the net found him alone in front of the net.
Kyle Beach had taken the penalty for goalie interference when he crashed the goal following his own shot, looking to break the tie.
“I’m not upset or disappointed with what Kyle did,” Sauter said. “In a lot of circumstances it’s probably OK. Tonight, for whatever reason, both teams were going to the net and it was the ref’s decision that was a penalty. Nothing to do there but kill it and we didn’t. It’s too bad.”
Although the Chiefs, who have won twice in Portland, are the league’s best penalty killers it didn’t help that two of their PK stalwarts, Jared Cowen and Tyler Johnson, are at camps for the World Junior Tournament.