The power went out at the Arena – make that stayed out – but only on the Spokane side of the Western Hockey League game against Portland on Saturday night.
The Chiefs had a nice shot advantage but went 0 for 9 on the power play and the Winterhawks posted a 2-1 win, their 10th straight at the Arena.
It is the fifth one-goal game, three of them losses, for the Chiefs in eight days. Since a goal in Chilliwack on Tuesday the Chiefs have gone 0 for 23 with a man advantage, including 0 for 8 in a 3-2 loss to Portland on Friday.
“We just have to keep working hard,” Blake Gal, who scored Spokane’s goal, said. “There is always adversity in sports. We just need to fight through that. Eventually the bounces are going to come our way. I’m not sure what the power-play problem is. We’ll watch video and try to correct the things we’re doing wrong.”
The Chiefs outshot the Winterhawks 35-24, making it 83-43 for the weekend.
“I’d be really concerned if we had 12 shots on net, but we’re working, we’re creating, we just came up short,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “They’re a pretty good measuring stick. That’s a big physical team with lots of skill. Those two goals they had tonight were tic-tac-toe in the net.”
The first period was scoreless with the Chiefs whiffing on three power plays.
They went 0 for 4 in the second, but got an even-strength goal from Gal, his team-high fourth. Gal banged in a juicy rebound on a shot from the left point by Cole Hamblin, playing only his second game, to cap a strong shift for the Steve Kuhn-Kenton Miller-Gal line.
However, a 2-on-1 and a giveaway led to goals by Sven Bartschi and a 2-1 Portland lead. Bartschi had two first-period goals Friday as the Winterhawks found a way to win despite getting outshot 48-19.
“I was really disappointed last night. I thought Spokane played a great game, they outworked us … but I like the response tonight,” Portland coach Mike Johnston said. “I thought we battled hard. We took a few too many penalties again. Good goaltending both nights.”
“Like any football team doesn’t go anywhere unless you have a quarterback, it’s that simple,” Nachbaur said. “That’s what a power play is all about, your quarterback is the guy up top. We have a lot of guys that are limited in certain areas, but they’re young, they’re still learning that part of the game. We’re going to continue the process figuring out what to do back there but everybody has had a fair shake.”
The inexperience was evident.
“Over the last two games we got punished,” Nachbaur said of the power play. “We put pucks in areas we shouldn’t have and it coast us opportunities. Their strength is against the wall.
“Their four guys out-competed our guys. They were physical and we didn’t meet the challenge. But to our credit, we put the puck in areas that aren’t good to us. We talked about spreading them out with passes and it comes down to execution, but we didn’t execute … we created battles and that’s not the way to beat these guys.
“That’s just experience, we have to keep working on it.”
The Chiefs get a full week of practice before Everett visits Saturday.