October 3, 2011 in Sports

Chiefs mum, but clearly unhappy with rough play

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Spokane Chiefs Steven Kuhn, and the bench celebrates Kuhn’s goal to make the score 3-0 in the first period of last Saturday’s game against Tri-City in the Spokane Arena.
(Full-size photo)

Home sweet home

The Chiefs were limping along 2-5 last season when they headed east for their extended trip, a camaraderie building excursion that turned their season around. They won’t have that opportunity this year, not heading to face Central Division teams until after Thanksgiving. When Kelowa comes to town it starts a string of seven straight home games. “You can make arguments on both sides, getting on the bus or staying at home,” coach Don Nachbaur said. “Until you come through that schedule and look at the record, you don’t know. If we have a good record, we look at genius. “It’s the way the schedule’s built. I’ve never been a guy to complain about the schedule. It’s the Western Hockey League, just deal with it.”

Sometimes saying nothing carries more weight than a speech.

That was certainly the case from the Spokane lockerroom after the Chiefs’ Western Hockey League home opener on Saturday.

The Chiefs embarrassed rival Tri-City 7-2 and the Americans made it worse by taking exception to just about everything.

When the game came to a merciful end, the Chiefs had been on 12 power plays, had two players leave the game with injuries and a third leave and return minus a couple of teeth.

“I don’t know if I want to comment. I know I had guys hurt,” Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said after the game. “I didn’t see it and I haven’t viewed it on the video so it’s really difficult for me to comment. … We spent a lot of time on the power play.”

He was talking specifically about the checking from behind penalty that took out Liam Stewart early in the third period, not the collision that took out Tanner Mort, which appeared to be incidental contact, or the one that cost Mitch Holmberg a couple teeth because that happened right in front of the Spokane bench.

The Chiefs broke the game open by going 4-of-6 on the power play, which included extended man-advantage opportunities because Mason Wilgosh’s stickwork on Holmberg or Justin Harmonic’s shot on Stewart.

Both of those instances drew double minors and means the league will automatically review the plays for further penalties. Dominik Uher had a 5-minute major for his checking from behind penalty on Wilgosh in the season opener and he was suspended for three games, although Wilgosh hardly missed a shift.

Obviously, the game was ripe for heated words from rivals.

“We can talk but I don’t need to read about it,” Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz said Monday before adding that Mort and Stewart were questionable for the three games this week. “We’re going to list them on the league report as one week.”

He said both injuries were upper body, not to be confused with lower body, the only two ways injuries are listed on the WHL report.

“One of the reasons we’re doing that is just the competitiveness of the game, nobody wants other players targeting areas of injuries,” Speltz said. “Nobody is trying to hide anything, we’re just trying to protect the players. It’s not something the opposition needs to know.”

Stewart and Mort are questionable for Wednesday’s game in Vancouver and Friday’s in Kamloops. The Chiefs play Kelowna at the Arena on Saturday, when Uher returns.

To help fill the possible void, the Chiefs added Jarid Hauptman, a 17-year-old forward, to the roster.

If there was any question how the Tri-City game played out, after the Chiefs took a 7-1 lead with their fourth power play goal, they had six more power plays.

Holmberg had quite a night. Anthony Bardaro made sure the high sticking penalty was paid for by notching a power pay goal on his way to a hat trick. That while Holmberg was in the dressing room minus a tooth picked up off the ice and having a loose one taken out. Holmberg returned for the second period and fed new captain Darren Kramer for the prettiest goal of the night. After the game it was straight to the dentist’s office.

Defenseman Reid Gow, who played sparingly last year as a 16-year-old and had just 11 points, contributed four assists. Despite his age, it appears he will be a regular on the power play.

Stewart and Mort are key penalty kill contributors. The Chiefs stopped all five Tri-City power plays.

Popular choice

After all the Spokane players and staff were introduced in pregame ceremonies Saturday, assistant coach Jon Klemm went to center ice with a folded jersey, the “C” for captain showing.

The former captain then presented the jersey, No. 22, to Darren Kramer as the crowd roared.

“It was a little bit of a shock because we have so many great leaders on this team; it’s a great honor,” Kramer said. “So many other guys could be wearing this letter. I don’t think it changes anything too much.”

Ice chips

There was a 16-round shootout in an American Hockey League exhibition game on Saturday before the Peoria Rivermen defeated the Rockford Ice Hogs. Notable from that game is there was a fight 23 seconds in between Peoria’s Chris Bruton, who played in Spokane from 2004-09, and Rockford’s Kyle Beach, who played here in 2009-10. … Everett has traded goalie Luke Siemens, 19, to Moose Jaw for forward Matt Grant, 18, and third-round picks in the next two bantam drafts. That leaves 16-year-old Austin Lotz to back up Kent Simpson. … Stewart, the son of rock icon Rod Stewart, was cleared to play for the Great Britain National Program at the end of the Chiefs’ season. Stewart was born in London. The 17-year-old is now eligible for the U-18 World Championships.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email