This time, there was no last-minute – or last-second – drama.
There were, however, plenty of mistakes and missed opportunities, and as a result the Spokane Chiefs find themselves in a bit of a hole at the hands of their fierce rivals, the Tri-City Americans, in their best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series.
The Americans scored twice in the first period and Ty Rimmer made 24 saves as Tri-City picked up a 2-1 win and took a 2-1 lead in the Western Hockey League playoff series in front of 4,742 fans on Wednesday night at the Arena.
“We made too many mistakes with the puck,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “You can’t make mistakes against a team like Tri-City. You’ve got to give them credit, they’re pretty skilled and they’ll make you pay the price, and we paid the price dearly.
“Too many mistakes with the puck, for sure.”
Those costly mistakes started occurring about eight minutes into the opening period.
The Chiefs began the game with solid, physical play and had some good scoring chances early. Derek Ryckman put Spokane on the power play 4 minutes, 11 seconds into the game when he kneed Connor Chartier, and although the Chiefs didn’t get one past Rimmer, they were moving the puck well.
Then, at 7:06, Sam Grist tripped Colin Valcourt to give the Chiefs their second power play.
Opportunity knocked, but Spokane didn’t answer.
“We had a good start,” Nachbaur said. “We had some good chances early in the game. … On the second (power play) we just fell apart. The first one was good, but the second one took away our momentum and we changed the way we played from that point forward.”
And just as Nachbaur said, the Americans immediately made the Chiefs pay.
Nathan MacMaster put Tri-City on the board at 9:20 when he cleaned up the rebound of a Justin Feser shot from the right circle. Chiefs goalie Eric Williams, who finished with 27 saves, got a pad on Feser’s shot with a nice kick save, but MacMaster quickly put the rebound into a wide-open net.
Brendan Shinnimin added to the lead with a top-shelf goal – which held up as the winner – at 14:56. Williams turned away a handful of Tri-City shots on a scramble in front of the net before Shinnimin fired in a shot near the bottom of the right circle that went over Williams’ shoulder and hit the net just inside the crossbar.
After a scoreless middle period, the Chiefs came out with more energy and desperation in the third.
Just less than 6 minutes into the period, the Chiefs thought they had their first goal when a puck landed on the goal line. After an official review, it was determined that the puck didn’t cross all the way over the line, and the Americans held on to their 2-0 lead.
Steve Kuhn made it a one-goal game at 12:16 when he fired the puck past Rimmer off the rebound of Dominik Uher’s shot from the left circle.
Spokane had a few more good looks at the net, but shot high, or wide, as they missed their chances down the stretch.
“I think it was similar to Game 2,” Chiefs captain Darren Kramer said. “We came down to the wire again and we had a chance right to the end, but if (we) play the 2 1/2 periods before that, (we) won’t end up in that situation. That’s what we have to work on.
“We just have to play our game and we’ll be successful.”
“We’re guilty,” Nachbaur added. “We had a couple looks that we shot off the glass, or off the end wall, and we’ve got to be better.”
Chiefs forward Marek Kalus was scratched for his second straight game. After taking a hit in the Game 1, Kalus suffered an internal, upper-body injury and is questionable for
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