For two teams on opposite ends of the Western Conference standings, the Spokane Chiefs certainly have a difficult time with the Seattle Thunderbirds.
It was no different at the Arena Wednesday night as the last-place T-Birds embarrassed the lackluster Chiefs 5-1 before a lackluster crowd of 4,119.
“Welcome home,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We come so far, why do that? That’s immaturity. That’s on the leadership.”
After the eighth meeting between the teams that were 31 points apart in the Western Hockey League standings, both teams have four wins.
While Seattle (22-29-4-5, 53 points), remains five points shy of a playoff berth, the Chiefs (38-17-4-2, 82) fell three points behind Portland for the top seed in the fast-approaching playoffs with only 11 left to play.
It was a surprising performance for a team that had won four straight road games since a 3-1 loss at Seattle 10 days ago.
“We got a day off, we needed it, but guys didn’t come back to work,” Spokane captain Jared Cowen said. “They’ve got to learn to take time off and come back ready to play. We’ve had trouble with that all year.
“Everything they were getting in the game we gave them, so it’s on us.”
“It’s not respecting your opponent, not playing the game hard, which boils down to preparation,” Nachbaur said. “It all went in one ear and out the other.
“No excuses. They weren’t ready to play, that’s the bottom line. All the intangibles we have as the strengths of our team, speed and tenacity, none of which showed up tonight. We tried to play the game standing still. That’s called shortcuts.”
At least in two of the four losses to Seattle, Spokane picked up loser points. This time the Chiefs let the Thunderbirds skate out of the first period with the lead (2-0) for only the ninth time this season, then got their hats handed to them by allowing three goals in 2:22 in the opening 5 minutes of the third period.
So much for the return of goalie James Reid, who played for the first time in exactly a month after returning from an injury. He had 19 saves in 24 shots before Mac Engel came on after the final goal.
“We were in the game, it was a 2-1 game, and we didn’t get a save,” Nachbaur said. “That’s the bottom line. They got some saves, we got none.”
That was true with Calvin Pickard making 39 saves for Seattle after making 57 in the last meeting.
“It seems like we’ve played pretty good against them this year,” the 18-year-old draft pick of Colorado said. “We get into a rhythm, we get hitting. I don’t think they’re any better than us when we play our game against their game.”
Seattle’s first goal came when Reid couldn’t cover up the puck and the T-Birds kept poking away at it until Brendan Rouse jabbed it in. In the final minute, when the Chiefs were putting pressure on, Seattle got the puck out, Colin Jacobs hustled down the right wing to get it and he crossed it to Luke Lockhart for a quick, high shot over Reid’s glove.
The Chiefs got one back early in the second period when Anthony Bardaro picked up a rebound of Davis Vandane’s shot from the right point and backhanded it past Pickhard. But even with a power play seconds later, the Chiefs still failed to get any momentum going.
Then, in a big hurry, Dave Sutter, Colin Jacobs and Burke Gallimore scored.