Chilliwack freezes Chiefs
Odds were the same ol’ story was going to play out at the Arena Friday night.
Chilliwack scored a power play goal in the middle of the second period to take a 1-0 lead into the final 20 minutes against Spokane and the Bruins were 15-1 when leading after two periods while the Chiefs were 0-11 when trailing.
It didn’t help that the Chiefs had dropped five straight home games, all by one goal, but at the same time the Bruins 0-7 at the Arena in their brief history.
So, what happened?
Simple, take the odds.
At least it wasn’t a one goal loss.
Chilliwack goalie Lucas Gore made 28 saves, 13 in the third period when a Spokane turnover and a giveaway led to goals by Kevin Sundher and Ryan Howse, to saddle the Chiefs their second shutout of the season.
The Bruins (20-18-1-5, 46 points) did their damage despite getting just 17 shots – the fewest by four the Chiefs (23-15-3, 49), who had 28 shots, gave up this season.
“I can’t peg it on any particular guy or any group of guys,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “As a group we were flat. That is too many home games in the season, too many home games in a row, where we’ve come out and we don’t have enough jump. That has to be corrected.
“I think we have to change our game day routine at home so tomorrow we’ll try something different and see what our result is tomorrow night.
It’s not exactly where the Chiefs – who were back at full strength for the first time since mid-December – want to be with Western Division leading rival Tri-City coming to town tonight.
“I wish I could put my finger on it,” Sauter said. “Obviously between tonight and tomorrow night I have to figure it out.”
The Chiefs welcomed back captain Jared Cowen and Tyler Johnson from the World Junior Tournament and rookies Mitch Holmberg and Brady Brassert from U-17 World Hockey Challenge. But the team that had beat Chilliwack 5-1 and 7-1 in their two previous meetings had nothing.
“My guess, I don’t know, is sometimes when you insert guys back into your lineup, the group gets a sense almost of entitlement to win and they don’t put in the work necessary to get the end result,” Sauter said. “I thought as good as some guys have played leading up to this game we had some guys tonight that just struggled.”
The whole Arena, despite 5,112 fans, was flat at the start because there was no pregame music or public address announcer because of technical difficulties.
“We had to create our own kind of volumn in the room and on the ice,” Gore said after his third shutout. “We did a good job with that and got a win tonight.”
Sauter said, “I thought our bench was OK at the start of the game. I’m sure none of that helped but it’s not like they had music on their half and we didn’t. I think we started OK, our power play let us down a little and then we couldn’t seem to grab the momentum and grab that goal we needed to get going.”
The first two periods were particularly dull, the only marker an easy power play goal by Dylen McKinlay at 13:33 of the second period. In addition to being flat, the Chiefs treated the puck like a hot potato and couldn’t string together enough passes to challenge Gore, though Chilliwack did a good job of clogging the lanes.
Spokane was more aggressive offensively in the third period but hit the post on their two best chances.
“The team played well, allowing me to make the saves and then cleared the rebound,” Gore said. “I owe a lot to them.”
The Bruins beat Michael Tadjdeh twice in the third period both after miscues.
“We’ve been making similar mistakes for a long time now,” Sauter said. “Again, we have to find a way to correct those. It’s not like the guys don’t recognize the errors. We have to take it upon ourselves to really put forth the effort to correct them.”