It’s not often a goalie can give up more than double his league-leading average and still be the player of the game, but it happened at the Arena on Sunday night.
James Reid thrilled a crowd of 7,476 fans with 36 mostly spectacular saves but it wasn’t enough as the Portland Winterhawks rallied for a 5-4 win with three unanswered goals in the third period, only the second time this season the Spokane Chiefs have lost after leading entering the third period.
“He was in the way a lot tonight, I like that,” Spokane coach Hardy Sauter said. “At the same time I don’t like the fact he has to do it.
Portland (23-15-1, 47 points), which finishes 4-0 in Spokane for the season, dominated the scoring chances and every phase of the third period to break its second-place tie with the Chiefs in the Western Hockey League U.S. Division. The Chiefs (21-11-3, 45), sporting spiffy blue 25th anniversary jerseys, were so discombobulated in the final 20 minutes they couldn’t even get the puck into the Portland end so Reid could leave the net for an extra skater until 20 seconds remained.
“As a (defensive) group we didn’t play very well,” Sauter said. “I don’t think you can point at any one guy and say he was the difference, good or bad, as a team we just weren’t as good and we’re going to improve tomorrow and be better Tuesday (in Portland).”
The tension of the game, in which the Winterhawks had a 41-33 shot advantage, ended with a post-game brawl involving all players on the ice, good for 104 penalty minutes, 59 on the visitors, who outshot the Chiefs 41-33, including 16-8 in the third period.
“I thought our goalie definitely played well enough to give us a chance to win,” Sauter said. “I thought, again, same old thing, turnovers were our Achilles’ heel. Up 4-2 after two periods, you’ve got to take care of the puck, you have to manage the game and we just didn’t do a very good job.”
Words can’t begin to describe some of the saves Reid made and there was one by defenseman Brett Bartman just before the midway point of the third period when the Chiefs were leading 4-3. After a great point-blank save by Reid, a Winterhawk tried to center the puck from behind the net and hit Reid’s back. As the puck floated toward the goal Bartman grabbed it and tossed it to safety.
But shortly after that Jacob Berglund batted a crossing pass from Chris Francis, who spun around in the left circle before spotting his wide-open teammate, into the net to tie the game at 10:22 of the third period.
Then, with the Chiefs unable to clear their zone, Berglund stole the puck behind the net and found wide-open Stefan Schneider for the game winner at 16:12.
“We weren’t really clicking the whole time tonight,” Reid said. “I knew I had to make some big saves and did, but I guess it was just too many chances, too many breakdowns.”
Sauter said: “Sometimes when you’re not totally focused on your job you make not even a mistake but you’re not where you should be, you miss an assignment by a half a step, a step and it sometimes gets exploited. Their third goal was an example of that, their fourth goal another example and then the fifth goal, we make a blind pass in our own end and again it ends up on their stick, out front and in our net.”
“Normally we don’t make those mistakes but it seems when we make one it’s a big one and it costs us.”
The story of the first period was Reid, who stopped two breakaways while his teammates were on a power play and several point-blank shots before Brad Ross connected on his second breakaway chance midway through the period.
Sandwiching Ross’ 17th goal were markers by Spokane rookie Anthony Bardaro barely two minutes into the game and Kenton Miller 59 seconds after the Portland score.
The second period featured stellar goaltending as well but the big tally was a bad goal.
First Levko Koper gave the Chiefs a 3-1 lead just 31 seconds into the period. Portland got that back on an Eric Doyle power play goal at 7:43.
After a faceoff in the Portland end, the puck was banked out to Corbin Baldwin at the left point and he sent a soft shot toward goal. The shot was slowed by a stick but the bouncing puck somehow eluded Ian Curtis and dribbled into the net at 13:33. It was the first career goal for Baldwin.
“I thought we had played better in the second than the first, not a lot, but a little,” Sauter said. “But you think if you play better in the third you’ve got a chance to win. It’s disappointing you give up three in the third, but at the same time we have to take what we can and learn from it and move forward. No sense in pouting about it now, we just have to learn from our mistakes.”
Winterhawks 5, Chiefs 4
Portland 1 1 3 — 5
Spokane 2 2 0 — 4
First Period—1, Spokane, Bardaro 2 (Uher), 2:08. 2, Portland, Ross 17 (Gabriel), 9:29. 3, Spokane, Miller 6 (Kichton, Gal), 10:28. Second Period—4, Spokane, Koper 16 (Wahl), 0:31. 5, Portland, Doyle 5 (Morrow, Ponich), 7:43 (pp). 6, Spokane, Baldwin 1 (Miller), 13:33. Third Period—7, Portland, Johansen 12 (Ross, Rutkowski), 1:12. 8, Portland, Berglund 4 (Francis), 10:22. 9, Portland, Schneider 7 (Berglund), 16:12.
Power-play Opp.—Portland 1 of 5; Spokane 0 of 3. Saves—Portland, Curtis 9-12-8—29. Spokane 11-13-13—36. A—7,476.