KENNEWICK – Don Nachbaur’s team is talented.
Unfortunately it’s his old team.
The former Tri-City coach, two years removed from a spot behind the Americans’ bench and in his first game behind the bench of their fierce rival Spokane, had to be questioning his career path in his first game back in the Western Hockey League, which was a 6-3 whipping, one that obviously didn’t sit well with a coach that has 235 wins in the league.
“Our veterans weren’t good enough tonight,” Nachbaur said. “Our young guys learned as the game went on, but the young guys can’t win unless the old guys show them the way. I thought too many guys who played on this team last year took a back seat. If they keep that up, they’ll have a seat in the stands.”
Just 1:22 after raising two banners – representing U.S. Division and Western Conference championships – won while the man who helped build the foundation tried his hand in the American Hockey League, the spanking began.
How bad was the start of the Nachbaur Era?
The 5,922 fans in attendance, a sellout at the Toyota Center, enjoyed a 5-0 lead less than a minute into the second period.
“I know what momentum is in sports,” Nachbaur said. “We gave all the momentum to them in the first period. Give them credit, they played well, but at the same time I thought we made far too many mistakes and they capitalized on those mistakes. That’s what good teams do.”
The Chiefs got their first goal, from Matt Marantz, less than a minute after falling behind 5-0 but then collected four penalties in less than 8 minutes. But the Americans, who notched a short-handled goal after the first penalty of the game, didn’t score, making them 1 for 7 with a man advantage.
Those good penalty-kill vibes were negated when the Americans then took four quick penalties and the Chiefs not only came up empty, they managed just two shots, despite a short 5-on-3 and a 4-minute power play.
“Every time you lose and work hard, I’ll never say a negative thing,” Nachbaur said. “But at the end of the day, there’s lot of work to do. There are guys here that are undisciplined. We took far too many penalties, we didn’t have a big enough compete level. You’re not going to win at the Western Hockey League level with guys who are looking for an easy game.”
This was a disaster at the start, with Brendan Shinnimin scoring just 1:22 into the game and Justin Feser adding a short-handed goal at 5:24.
When Jordan Messier whacked in a rebound at 11:26, Nachbaur called a timeout. Just 4:50 later, Patrick Holland made it 4-0 with a power-play goal, again on the rebound.
“Too many mistakes in that first period due to a lack of not competing hard enough,” Nachbaur said. “There were some easy goals on their side. It’s tough to regroup from those moments. We have to learn from that.”
The fifth goal, by Shinnimin 57 seconds into the second, was a tap-in.
Spokane’s Levko Koper scored a power-play goal at 5:57 of the third period, and it was past the midway point before the Americans managed a shot on goal. Chiefs rookie defenseman Reid Gow had a power-play goal with just more than 5 minutes left on a slap shot from the left circle.