The Spokane Chiefs’ 4-2 loss to Red Deer Saturday night wasn’t quite the disaster the Western Hockey League game seemed at the time, but it certainly qualifies as a learning experience.
“We haven’t reached that status of being considered one of echelon teams because upper echelon teams know what the word consistency is,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said on Tuesday. “It’s just your mentality. You have to know what’s at stake every game. That’s where your leadership is so vital, your teaching process is so vital as far as installing that in your team, that nothing is a given.”
A couple of phrases such as “laid an egg” and “out to lunch” indicated what Nachbaur felt at the time.
“Every game has a momentum factor,” he said. “Coming out of the Calgary game, we had lots of momentum and we let it slip away. That’s the thing I was most disappointed with.”
Maybe it was kind of a Catch 22 situation for a team with a new coach in the midst of a six consecutive home games.
“Sometimes the tough thing about the long homestand … you get comfortable,” Nachbaur said. “But it’s been great. We’ve had a lot of good practice time. We have come miles in the last couple weeks as far as learning the players and the players learning the structure.”
There is a sense of urgency with Prince George visiting the Arena Wednesday night before the Chiefs go on their six-games-in-nine-days Eastern Division swing.
“The season is still young, we have 10 games under our belts,” Nachbaur said. “The guide for me is by Christmas time. We (have to) learn (consistency) as quickly as possible because the race is on. You don’t want to fall off the back.
“You like to start a road trip on key note. It’s a long bus ride out there and you’d like to have a good effort behind you.”
The Chiefs are 4-6-0-0, the eight points tied for last in both the U.S. Division and Western Conference. Prince George (7-5-1-0, 15 points) is one of the most improved teams in the league, second in the B.C. Division, fourth in the Western Conference..
In other words, another game, another tough opponent.
“We’ve had no easy games,” Nachbaur said.” It’s really tested us and battle hardened us. I wasn’t happy about losing 4-2 (but) it would be a lot different if we had lost 8-2. We were right there in the hockey game, we let it slip away. We’ve let a couple of them slip away. That’s just pushing forward, finding a way to win.”
Just as three weeks at home has provided a great opportunity to teach, Nachbaur is looking forward to taking those lessons on the road.
“It’s always been a good trip; it’s a character builder,” he said. “You play so many games in such a short time period. You’re going to endure a lot of injuries, fatigue. You have plenty of time to be with the guys. The team building is invaluable. You get a lot tighter as a team because you battle so much adversity. When you come out of it you’re a better team for it.
“We have to learn the same things on the road we’ve learned at home: what momentum means, what a lead means, what penalties mean or lack of discipline, losing your composure. We’ve been through it all. After 10 games you’d expect your guys to take a step forward in all of those departments.”
Chiefs deal Cratsenberg
Spokane sent seldom-used forward T.C. Cratsenberg, 18, to Chilliwack for a conditional eighth-round pick in the 2012 Bantam Draft.
“Considering the dynamics of our current roster, T.C. was going to have a tough time getting the ice time he deserved,” general manager Tim Spletz said in a team release. “Hopefully he can take advantage of the opportunity in Chilliwack. We wish him the best of luck.”
Former Chief honored
Spokane native Derek Ryan, a forward for the University of Alberta Golden Bears, scored eight points in two games at home against the Lethbridge Pronghorns last weekend, including three straight goals and six points in the first game, en route to a pair of wins for Alberta. He was named University Player of the Week.
On Friday, the fourth-year player scored three straight goals to break open a 1-1 tie, beginning midway through the first period, tallying on the power-play, at even-strength, and on a 5-on-3 penalty kill. He then assisted on the next three Alberta goals to make the score 7-1 after two periods before the Bears won by an eventual score of 8-2.
Ryan started the scoring on Saturday evening for the home team when the Bears were down 2-0 early. His goal and assist knotted the game at two goals apiece in the first period, preceding an offensive outburst by both teams, which finalized with a 9-6 score for Alberta.
He is tied for the Canada West scoring lead with teammate and former Chief Chad Klassen with 16 points.