Special teams weren’t special, which is why the Spokane Chiefs suffered a heart-breaking 4-3 loss to Western Hockey League rival Tri-City Saturday night at the Arena.
The Chiefs had a man advantage seven times and seven times they came up empty. The Americans cashed in on two of their seven power-play opportunities.
“We played a good, probably, 30, 40 minutes of the game,” Spokane forward Tyler Johnson said. “You just can’t win a game like that. Way too many penalties. Discipline wasn’t there for us. I don’t know too many teams that can win a game short-handed.”
After falling behind 2-0 early in the second period, Johnson’s penalty shot early in the third period gave the Chiefs a 3-2 lead. Johnson drew the penalty as he broke in on Drew Owsley while the Americans were on the power play.
That brought the crowd of 8,735 to life but didn’t fluster Tri-City.
The Americans got a power-play goal from Brooks Macek at 13:55. Less than a minute later, Spencer Asuchak lucked into a goal as the puck went off his skate into the net.
The win came despite five third-period penalties, including three in less than a minute shortly after Johnson’s goal.
“That was entertaining,” TC coach Jim Hiller said. “They should have charged double for that one.
“What do I think of (the third period) right now or what did I think of it 10 minutes in? I wasn’t enjoying it very much. That’s junior hockey, there’s probably not a more entertaining brand of hockey played than junior hockey.”
Hiller could afford a cavalier attitude since his team has won nine straight since losing to Seattle.
“You’re always happy when you’re on the power play, you’re always disappointed when you’re on the penalty kill,” he said. “Referees have a tough job.”
Spokane (5-4-1) wasn’t pointing fingers.
“A lot of (power-play problems were) us early and then as the game went on, I thought when we did get shots through it seemed to hit their goalie,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “And they blocked a ton of shots. Whether they meant to or not, they got in the way of a lot of shots.”
Despite all the blocks by the Ams (11-2-0) the Chiefs had a 32-25 shot advantage, 19-16 after two periods, plus all those third-period power plays.
“I think we have to be smarter, get those pucks through, get them on net,” Johnson said. “Too many times we were looking for that pretty goal. Sometimes it’s the garbage goals that are going to matter.”
The Chiefs escaped the first period trailing just 1-0 despite being a man short for 7 minutes, including a 5-minute stint after T.C. Cratsenberg received a major and game misconduct for wailing on Tyler Schmidt, who didn’t fight back.
However, a charging penalty on Steve Kuhn as the buzzer sounded led to a power-play goal 1:55 into the second period, putting the Chiefs down 2-0.
A wraparound goal by Kenton Miller at 5:07 – his shot deflected in off goalie Drew Owsley – cut the deficit in half. In the waning minutes, Mike Marantz got his stick on a rebound of a Tanner Mort shot from the right point and the puck dribbled in.
Brandon visits Spokane on Wednesday.