If preparation is the key to success, the Spokane Chiefs may have to consider themselves lucky to have earned two points on Friday night.
After playing 18 games in the past 28 days – which, granted, is more than any other team in the Western Hockey League during that stretch – it’s no surprise the Chiefs are feeling the pain and fatigue that come in the dog days of winter.
Still, there’s no excuse in coach Don Nachbaur’s book for blowing a three-goal lead, even if the Chiefs did escape with a 6-5 shootout victory over the Victoria Royals in front of 7,769 fans at the Arena.
“We got what we deserved – I’ve said that all year long,” Nachbaur said
“You can’t win like that. To me, a lot of guys looked tired. But to me, when you’re tired, you have to spend the whole day preparing, and I don’t think a lot of guys did that.”
Five players scored in regulation for Spokane and Eric Williams made 24 saves.
Dominik Uher finished with a short-handed goal and two assists, Mitch Holmberg scored his team-leading 20th goal of the season, and defenseman Cole Wedman scored his first career WHL goal for Spokane (29-15-4-3). The Chiefs also got goals from Liam Stewart and Marek Kalus in regulation.
Blake Gal and Holmberg scored in the shootout, which the Chiefs won 2-1 to pick up two points in the standings and maintain a two-point lead over the Vancouver Giants for fourth place in the Western Conference with a game in hand.
That, at least, was cause for celebration.
“We got the two points, but we’re better than that,” Nachbaur said. “We played down – and no disrespect to Victoria, but when you have a 5-2 lead you just have to finish. We let our foot off the throttle. We had too many passengers as far as I’m concerned – too many guys didn’t compete or play hard enough.
“Fatigue is just an excuse.”
Victoria’s Steven Hodges and Jamie Crooks scored in the first period, which ended in a 2-all tie with a 12-all tie on the shot count.
Jared Rathjen, who was 0-4-1-0 heading into the game, started in net for the Royals and was pulled after Kalus scored Spokane’s fifth goal 9 minutes, 1 second into the second period. Keith Hamilton, who replaced Rathjen, picked up the loss – although it could have gone either way.
After Spokane took a 5-2 lead, Hodges cut the lead to two goals when he scored on a power play at 16:09 in the second period.
Brandon Magee made it a one-goal game at 16:46 in the third. With 35 seconds remaining in regulation, Robin Soudek took advantage of a lazy hook by Steve Kuhn and sent the game into overtime when he punched in a pass from Ben Walker off a face-off in Spokane’s zone on the power play.
“We made way too many errors with the puck – whether it was giving it to the other team or shooting it in the crowd,” Nachbaur said. “Again, we got what we deserved.”
Uher – who became the first Chief to score four goals in a game in Spokane’s 5-3 win over Seattle on Tuesday since Drayson Bowman did it on Feb. 25, 2009 – scored his sixth goal in three games. Uher has 11 goals and 26 points in his last 16 games. … Twenty-year-old defenseman Corbin Baldwin served the first of a two-game suspension he received for a checking to the head major and a game misconduct in Wednesday’s loss at Kamloops.