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Chiefs survive up-and-down road trip

That the Spokane Chiefs picked up three points last weekend in it’s critical three-games-in-three-days Western Hockey League road trip wasn’t a surprise.

What was surprising was the manner in which they did it, which should serve them well this week when they play three games in four nights, beginning with a visit from Kamloops tonight.

Spokane dominated offensively (49-26 in shots) but lost 2-1 in a shootout at Seattle on Friday, picking up a point. The next night the wheels came off in an 8-3 loss at Tri-City. However, the team rebounded to beat WHL-leading Portland 3-1.

“I thought we played real well in Seattle and deserved more than one point,” coach Don Nachbaur said. “The guys played a real strong 60-minute game. Their goalie (Calvin Pickard) was the difference in that game.

“We went into Tri(-City) on a real positive note and laid the proverbial egg. The players, 1 through 20, just weren’t real good.

“Going into Portland the guys did a real good job regrouping after getting beat up mentally.”

The Chiefs had picked up 14 points in their previous 10 games, seven of them on the road before facing the Americans, who had lost 5-0 in Spokane a week earlier.

“That’s sport,” Nachbaur said. “There are nights things don’t go your way.”

If there are going to be games like that, then there has to be games like the one in Portland, when the Chiefs handed the Winterhawks just their fifth loss in 25 games.

“It’s not a fluke they have the record they have,” Nachbaur said. “They have a good team. Any good team can have off nights, too. We were part of their problem, we put them in situations to have an off-night.”

The Winterhawks have 41 points to lead the U.S. Division by 15 over Seattle, Tri-City and Everett with Spokane two more back at 24 points.

In the Western Conference, which is what really matters for playoffs, the Hawks are 12 points ahead of Vancouver, which is all of six points up on last-place Kamloops (23 points).

Kamloops is going to be without two players after the Blazers got into a post-game dustup in Portland on Friday.

Forwards J.C. Lipon (four-game suspension) and Chase Schaber (three games) miss tonight’s game and Friday’s rematch in Kamloops. Fortunately for the Blazers they had a home game on Tuesday against lowly Regina so leading scorer Brendan Ranford could serve his one-game suspension.

Portland was without forward Seth Swenson and defenseman Joe Morrow in the loss to Spokane.

Kamloops and Portland were also both fined $3,000.