Hundreds of miles on a bus in the middle of the night may sound like purgatory, but it might be just what the Spokane Chiefs needed.
The Chiefs seemed to do everything possible to make it easy for the struggling Prince George Cougars, who accepted the hospitality in a 5-4 win in front of 6,376 restless fans at the Arena on Saturday night.
“Terribly disappointing,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “It’s pretty obvious what was wrong, we didn’t skate. We’re not good enough to stand around and watch. No quickness to our game whatsoever, shooting pucks, passing pucks.
“We played with no energy, no passion. That’s something our older guys got to address.”
How bad was it?
Well, the Cougars (8-17-0-2, 18 points) struck first just 1:36 into the game when Charles Inglis wristed a high shot from the slot past rookie Luke Lee-Knight.
The problem was that the pass came directly from Chiefs defenseman Corbin Baldwin.
The winner, by defenseman Linden Springer, came when the Chiefs just let the puck lay in the crease for an eternity before Springer poked it past Mac Engel.
The goals in between weren’t much better.
“We’re not going to blame our goalie (Lee-Knight), we had giveaways that the poor kid had no chance on,” Nachbaur said. “Just ridiculous. Our backend guys are making it too complicated and in the process guys are losing their confidence.”
Now the Chiefs (11-7-1-2, 25) head out for their five-game swing through the Central Division, beginning Tuesday in Edmonton. They don’t return home until Dec. 16, after a sixth road game in Everett.
The scary part now is that the Chiefs are hauling a season-long goose egg on the bus; they’re 0-7 on the road.
“We’re a lunch-bucket crew and we have to approach it that way,” Nachbaur said. “We have to outwork teams … we earned the loss tonight. We surely didn’t go out there and earn a victory. We didn’t deserve to win that hockey game.”
The Cougars stole a goal barely 90 seconds into the game when Inglis wristed in his ninth against Lee-Knight, who had no chance after the giveaway.
After falling behind 1-0, Spokane responded quickly when Marek Kalus tapped in a crossing pass from Carter Proft at 2:48 for his sixth goal and at 8:39 Corbin Baldwin’s shot from the right point deflected in off a Cougar for his second tally.
But just 11 seconds later PG tied it at 2-all on Greg Fraser’s eighth goal.
PG took a 4-3 lead into the third on goals by Troy Bourke, his seventh, and Campbell Elynuik, his fourth, in the second.
Bourke closed in to clean up a rebound just 19 seconds into the second period after a miscommunication between Lee-Knight and a defenseman.
Blake Gal got that back at 2:51 with his fourth goal, going backhand while on a short-handed breakaway.
PG regained the lead on an Elynuik netter.
Just 10 seconds into the third period Dominik Uher tied it on a power play.