Don Nachbaur’s assessment was plain, simple and direct.
“That was awful,” the Spokane Chiefs coach said.
And he was right.
The Chiefs, who hadn’t lost a home game since before Santa Claus made his rounds or failed to pick up a point at the Arena since before Halloween candy was taken out of its hiding place, were outworked and outhustled by Kelowna on Saturday night, losing 5-3.
“There’s an old saying, ‘When you get full of yourself you get what you deserve,’” Nachbaur said. “We got what we deserved tonight and that’s entered our game.”
There isn’t much time to get it out with a game this evening in Portland, which regained first place from the Chiefs (29-12-3-2, 63 points) with a 5-1 win over Seattle.
“We’ll see how we react tomorrow,” Nachbaur said. “I had guys sitting out tonight that could have played. It started last night and it’s going through our locker room now. When it enters the locker room it’s my job to nip it in the bud and I’m in the process of doing that.”
That’s to take nothing away from Kelowna (26-20-0-0, 52), and the game-winning goal was indicative of that.
Brett Bulmer outskated one defenseman and fended off the other before cutting in on Spokane goalie Mac Engle, who was making his first start since Dec. 17.
“I waited the goalie out and tucked it in there,” Bulmer said after his second goal of the game and 17th of the season with 3:32 to play.
Geordie Wudrick’s 25th goal into an empty net iced the game.
It didn’t take the Chiefs long to grab the lead, with Tyler Johnson sitting out front to bury the feed from Dominik Uher 80 seconds into the game. It was Johnson’s league-leading 36th goal, tying his career high.
Bulmer tied the game with a power-play goal at 4:14. About 5 minutes later the Rockets went on the power play again and again Brown foiled Johnson’s short-handed chance. Seconds later Johnson was charging in again, but this time he sent the puck to Koper, who banged it home for his 23rd goal. The shortie, at 10:47, was the 13th for the Chiefs, tying for the league lead.
Mitch Holmberg staked the Chiefs to a 3-1 lead just 18 seconds into the second period, but that was the high-water mark. The Rockets got one back on Colton Heffley’s goal after a Chiefs giveaway at 5:03. Then a 5-on-3 power play was wasted, and with 1:20 to go in the period Shane McColgan was camped on the doorstep to bang in a rebound of Mitchell Chapman’s shot from the point to tie the game.
“There was no finish in our game,” Nachbaur said. “I thought we had them on the ropes at 3-1 and then our group got really arrogant.”
The giveaway goal and unproductive 5-on-3 were only two minutes apart.
“And these are our key guys,” Nachbaur said. “Your key guys instill stuff in your team whether it’s good or bad and tonight they were the ones that let their foot off the throttle.”
The Chiefs outshot the Rockets 38-17 but still lost for the first time at home since Seattle pulled out a 5-4 win in overtime on Dec. 15. The last time they didn’t pick up a point at home was when Red Deer won 4-2 on Oct. 23. That’s a string of 14 wins and two overtime losses.
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