Pace picks up, starting with Ams
After playing just nine games in the first 30 days of the Western Hockey League season the Spokane Chiefs play 17 games in the next 36 days, beginning tonight when the rival Tri-City Americans come to the Arena.
The game comes a week after the Chiefs finished a home-and-home split with Kootenay while the Americans played Wednesday and Friday.
The question, coach Hardy Sauter, is that good, bad or indifferent?
“I think the right answer is all three,” the second-year coach said. “It’s been good in the fact we haven’t played a whole bunch of games missing some injured players. It’s bad in the fact that this is Week 6 with basically weekend games and it’s hard to get in a rhythm. And it’s really indifferent as far as comparing yourself to the rest of the league. Everybody has busy stretches in their schedule; ours are just going to be in November and January.”
Despite a 5-3-1 record for 11 points, the Chiefs are fourth in the U.S. Division. Spokane and Everett are the only teams to have played fewer than 10 games. Tri-City, which hasn’t lost since falling 5-2 in the Chiefs’ home opener, is 10-2 for 20 points. Portland leads the way with 22 points after a victory over Kootenay in its 16th game Friday.
“It doesn’t concern me,” Sauter said. “Every once in a while we remind the guys we have games in hand, but they’re only good if you win. … By the end of November, when you look at the standings, you’ll get a realistic picture of where you fit. Right now it’s not that important.”
Tri-City extended its win streak to eight games Friday and features the league’s second-leading scorer in Brendan Shinnimin (one of two players with 24 points). It also owns a 6-2 win over Spokane in Kennewick.
“We scored four in our own net, literally, passes off our feet into our net,” Sauter said. “But they’re good. Don’t kid yourself, they’re good. They work extremely hard. Their power play is outstanding. You need to be disciplined, you need to have a good penalty kill and you have to be patient. …
“Right now they have momentum and confidence. Those are two very important things.”
Those are two things the Chiefs, who are 4-1 at home, 1-2-1 on the road, haven’t put together yet.
“Just as we get things cooking we get a week off,” Sauter said. “I think we’re anxious to play a game. Early on we’ll have a little bit of rust but once the game gets going, we’ll be just fine. We need a good start.”
Spokane picked up goalie Michael Tadjdeh last week, giving up an eighth-round draft pick in the 2011 bantam draft, when starter James Reid had to attend a funeral.
Rookie Chase Martin, 17, got the start in a 4-3 loss at Kootenay and Tadjdeh, 18, won the return match 3-1.
But there won’t be three goalies for long and age won’t be the determining factor.
“We’re lucky that Dennis Sproxton, our goalie coach, is here this week,” Sauter said. “We’ve seen both guys play. Now we’re going to see them both practice this week.
“Hopefully, we make a decision … Monday at the latest. Quite honestly, with a goalie you’re almost looking at you have to keep the best two. If you suffer at that position, you’re in big trouble. Ideally you don’t want a 20 and a 19 or two 19s, but Tadjdeh is 18. We’re looking at 19-18 or 19-17.”
With the addition of Tadjdeh and defenseman Corbin Baldwin back from injury the Chiefs sent 2007 first-round pick Michael Betz to Junior A on Thursday. … Injured 20-year-olds Ryan Letts and Jared Spurgeon are still three or four weeks from being ready.