Spokane Chiefs defenseman Jared Cowen said he knows when he plays poorly and doesn’t need anyone to remind him.
That’s why the generally reticent captain didn’t expect to get in the face of any teammates after a subpar effort cost them a chance to take command of the Western Conference finals in the Western Hockey League playoffs.
After taking the opening game Friday in Portland 2-1, the Chiefs scored first on Sunday but quickly gave that back and succumbed 2-1, evening the best-of-7 series that resumes with Game 3 tonight at the Arena at 1-1.
“Maybe I’ll say a word or two to them, but I know what I have to do when I’m not playing well,” said Cowen, who has been a dominant force in the playoffs. “I don’t need guys to get on my case. There’s a time and place to give guys advice. We’ll see.”
Cowen, however, won’t be silent, reminding his teammates of a bitter memory.
“There are two ways to look at it,” he said of the weekend split. “You have to remember it’s playoffs, not just regular season. It’s a seven-game series. It’s 1-1 and you stole a game on the road. When you look at it, that’s positive.
“So we have to go back home, realize they’re 5-0 on the road in the playoffs right now and we have to regroup and be ready for that.”
Not only that, the Winterhawks knocked the Chiefs out in the first round last year, winning all four games at the Arena as the series went the distance.
Needless to say, Portland won’t be lacking confidence.
“You always want to get both games at home, but to be 1-1 is totally fine,” said Portland’s Ryan Johansen, who scored the winning goal on Sunday. “We’ve had a really good record in their arena the last two years, so I think the momentum is in our hands right now and we’re feeling pretty good.”
“That was last year,” Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. “We have no demons in the closet. We’re a whole new group. You look at our home record this year and see what we’ve done. But we have to earn it. Nothing comes easy to this group. We talk about that all the time.”
The Chiefs were 27-7-2 at home this year, which was one more win than Portland had on home ice. But the Winterhawks had three more road wins, including three at the Arena.
Portland had a pair of one-goal wins at the Arena early and caught the Chiefs in a bad place in early February, winning 10-5. But in winning the regular-season series 5-4, the Chiefs also had a 9-3 home win and won three of four in Portland, with the loss coming in overtime.
Sunday’s game was the first in 11 meetings when Portland had more shots on goal.
Nachbaur said the key to success was simple.
“We have to play with more desperation than we did in Game 2,” he said. “We played with more urgency in Game 1.
“(That means) play with more passion for 60 minutes. There were periods where we let up in that game, where we cost us. They were more desperate.”