Last-minute deflection dooms Chiefs
Winterhawks net winner with 29 seconds left
The Spokane Chiefs had eight power plays and peppered Portland’s net with 48 shots, only to see the Winterhawks win their ninth straight game at the Arena dating back to the start of last season.
It was a shot by defenseman Taylor Aronson that deflected off the rear end of a Spokane defenseman with 29 seconds to play that gave Portland a 3-2 win on Friday night.
“It wasn’t from a lack of heart,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We put a lot of emotion and energy into that game. I can’t complain about the chances we had, we just didn’t have any puck luck around the net.”
“When I talk about puck luck, they shoot a shot from the blue line that finds its way through traffic, but we get the same chances …” Nachbaur said.
That made a loser out of Mac Engel in his first Western Hockey league game.
“He played good – can’t fault him on that last goal,” Nachbaur said. “There’s more we can do, the puck shouldn’t arrive at our net, not in the last 29 seconds. You’re a desperate hockey club, you’ve got to find a way to keep that from the net and we didn’t.”
Engel certainly didn’t have to work as hard as ’Hawks goalie Mac Carruth, who made 46 saves in his first start of the season.
“I think we deserved better,” Nachbaur said. “It was one of those games you had your chances and you didn’t convert. You knew the next shot down at the other end had a chance. … Some of the guys are going to have nightmares about some of the chances they missed. But their goalie played well, give him credit. He made the saves he had to.”
The game was really lost in the second period, when the Chiefs failed to score on four power plays in the first 10 minutes, frustrating the crowd of 4,911. The way the Chiefs dominated the third period – 22-5 in shots – they would have been better off declining penalties if it was allowed. In truth, their best chance of the period came while Portland was on one of its two power plays.
“It has nothing to do with system, it has everything to do with execution, making pass, receiving pass, putting it on net,” Nachbaur said. “We were obviously hungry throughout the second period to create those power plays. We put them in some situations they had to taken penalties then we let our foot off the gas when we got those power plays. We relaxed and with the relaxation comes the frustration.”
The first four goals came in the first 11 minutes of the game.
Sven Bartschi had both goals for Portland, both from the doorstep when the defense didn’t take care in marking him. In-between the Chiefs got a couple of pretty goals – captain Jared Cowen’s first on a wrister from the bottom of the left circle and a short-handed breakaway from Blake Gal.
Bartschi Bartschi’s first goal came on a power play after Engel Engle was called for a delay of game on his first save less than 90 seconds into the game.
“I thought I’d get a warning,” Engel said, agreeing that he saw similar plays not called on the other end. “It was a little nerve wracking at the start, my first game, I’ve never been in there before. I felt good after that, after the start I got into it. …
“Our guys battled hard all night. I thought they’d get it.”
In a scheduling quirk, the same teams play tonight at the Arena. … This was hometown star Tyler Johnson’s 200th game. … The Chiefs released defenseman Bruin McDonald. The 18-year-old was acquired from Prince George this summer. … Chiefs assistant coach Jon Klemm was in Denver on Thursday night for the 15th anniversary of the Colorado Avalanche’s first Stanley Cup. The Avs beat the defending Cup champ Blackhawks, but Klemm had to miss the Wednesday night banquet for the Chiefs’ game in Kamloops.