There’s a good chance that the next time the Spokane Chiefs play at home they’ll look different, maybe a lot different.
Although the Western Hockey League doesn’t allow trades from the end of their deceiving 8-6 loss to Portland Saturday night at the Arena until after Christmas, the Chiefs play four road games, starting Dec. 27, before returning home Jan. 6, which is just a couple of days shy of the trade deadline.
“I don’t know trade-wise but as a group we have to make some changes to be successful,” captain Darren Kramer said. “By changes I mean being consistent and being mentally focused every single night, not taking any team lightly.”
After their recent performances there is no reason to stand pat, as they did last year.
The Saturday night humbling wasn’t even the indictment the previous two games were, a less than stellar 3-2 overtime home win against an Everett team with just five wins on Wednesday and a dismal 6-2 road loss in Everett on Friday night.
The two home games before this week were both losses to lowly Prince George, both times coughing up a lead.
So changes are in store, considering the Chiefs have 15 wins and 16 losses (15-11-2-3, 35 points), and it could be much more than moving Tanner Mort, the 18-year-old defenseman from Post Falls who has sat out seven games and requested a trade.
“As a group we’ve seen when we pay attention to detail and are committed to a game plan we can have a pretty good team,” general manager Tim Speltz said. “When we want to be individualist it’s going to be real difficult. So we’ve got to get that fixed.
“If your personal isn’t right you have to make changes. Because you want to make changes doesn’t mean you can make changes,” Speltz added
As for Mort, he added, “We want players who are totally engaged. Tanner has had a stretch this year he needed to reflect. Because guys want (something), it doesn’t matter what they want. What matters is what’s best for the team.”
Portland (21-11-2-1, 45 points), which had three tight home wins over the Chiefs, sent a message as Joey Baker scored 16 seconds into the game.
“They scored first shift, you don’t want to start in that manner, especially coming off last night’s game,” Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. “Those are the moments you can start to feel here we go again.”
The Chiefs responded with a deflection by Marek Kalus off a Jarid Hauptman shot at 1:48, but 16-year-old Chase De Leo scored at 3:29 for Portland and the Chiefs never recovered.
The second period had a little of everything. Brad Ross scored just 1:05 in but Collin Valcourt got that back with a penalty shot at 3:26. Ty Rattie scored a power play goal for Portland at 9:46 and Ross had a short-handed goal at 17:25 after a brutal giveaway by Reid Gow. But Hauptman, set up by Brenden Kichton, scored with less than a second left in the period to give the Chiefs hope.
That is until the Chiefs went dormant for the first 10 minutes of the final period and allowed weak goals by De Leo and another rookie, Nicolas Petan, to make it 7-3. That ended the night for starting goalie Mac Engel, the second night in a row he didn’t finish what he started.
Then quickly Anthony Bardaro and Liam Stewart scored to make it a game until William Wrenn hit the empty net with 31 seconds left. Still, Hauptman got another with 22 seconds to go.
“Too loose of a game, Christmas game,” Nachbaur said. “Not a lot of emotion to our game. But there were some little positives, scoring goals, making plays, our young guys took some steps. But way too loose of a game for us to win.
“You trade scoring chances with skilled teams like that and you’re going to play a price. We paid the price.”
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