It doesn’t take much of an imagination to know how the Spokane Chiefs played Saturday night.
Coach Don Nachbaur used phrases “laid an egg” and “out to lunch” and “lost our composure” to describe his team’s effort in a 4-2 loss to the Red Deer Rebels.
The worst part is he was talking about his Western Hockey League veterans.
Any good feelings that came from a couple of wins, including an 8-1 laugher on Wednesday, were long gone by the end.
“We had a chance to go to .500, didn’t put our best foot forward,” Nachbaur said after his team fell to 4-6-0-0. “It’s easy to play 8-1 games, it’s tougher to put in a good effort in a tight game. We made gigantic strides coming in and we didn’t play the same game.
“Our shots were down and we expose ourselves when we do that. We didn’t get pucks to the net and when we did the battle level wasn’t there.”
The Chiefs had a 33-25 shot advantage but didn’t force Darcy Kuemper, the league leader in goals against at 1.57, to make too many big saves.
Defenseman Justin Weller broke a 1-1 tie early in the second period, pushing to the Spokane net for an easy redirect from Andrej Kudrna. The play was set up when Chiefs defenseman Garrett Leedahl missed a check along the boards, which turned the play into a 2-on-1. Late in the period Byron Froese backhanded in a rebound on a scramble in front of the net for a power-play goal that made it 3-1 for the Rebels (9-5-0-0, 18 points), who ended a two-game losing streak.
Turner Elston iced it with just less than 5 minutes left, not that Nachbaur was going to give up. He pulled goalie James Reid with 2½ minutes left, although a veteran forgot to replace him on the ice. However, Levko Koper still scored a power-play goal at 17:56. The Chiefs finished 1-of-5 on the power play against the best penalty-kill team in the league.
The Rebels notched the first goal when the Chiefs let Andrej Kudma stroll out of the corner and feed John Persson for an easy tap-in at 7:04 of the first period.
“I think you have to give them credit,” Nachbaur said. “They’re a good hockey team. Some guys got caught standing still against a good skating team with speed. They got too many easy goals. I think some guys were fishing for the puck, rather than finishing (with a hit on) the body.”
The goal that tied it was a nice move by Anthony Bardaro for his first of the season at 15:14. The play was set up when rookie Collin Valcourt, in his first game of the season, crushed a Rebel into a linesman, who fell into the Chiefs bench. Then Mitch Holmberg snagged the loose puck to set up Bardaro.
“I just have to fill a role,” Valcourt said. “I’m not a scorer. I just try to go out there and grind. I felt it went all right but it could have been a better result. It’s been a long stretch. I just wanted to make the most of it when I got out there. You just have to keep battling through and earn your spot as a rookie here.”
Nachbaur wasn’t particularly nice to his team after the game and pulled several veterans into another meeting. Talking about several costly penalties, he said, “We lost our composure, and it wasn’t our young guys.”