Chiefs take back-to-back spankings
Last month, the Spokane Chiefs tied a franchise record for wins in January and proved they could beat the best teams in the Western Hockey League.
As far as head coach Don Nachbaur is concerned, Spokane is on the other side of that coin after the Chiefs dropped their second consecutive game on Saturday night, following up Friday’s five-goal loss to the Portland Winterhawks with a 7-3 loss to the Tri-City Americans in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,367 at the Arena.
“It’s surely not the way we wanted to play or the result we wanted to get – in both games,” Nachbaur said. “We’ve got some regrouping to do as far as the way we play and right now we’ve proven that the two teams ahead of us in our division (Portland and Tri-City) are a step ahead of us at this time of year.”
The Portland Winterhawks are 18 points ahead of playoff-bound Spokane (32-22-4-3) in the Western Conference standings, and the Americans (43-15-1-2) have a 16-point lead. The Winterhawks (43-15-2-1) and Americans are second and third in the conference, respectively, while Spokane sits in fifth – five points behind Vancouver (36-23-1-3).
Spokane has now lost six of its last seven – three of those losses by just one goal – and is 4-8 in February.
“It’s getting hard now, and I think this is about character,” Nachbaur said. “We’ve got to redefine our pride. I thought there were times tonight that the game was right there for us and we didn’t execute. We’re getting frustrated.
“But again, the bottom line is when the going gets tough we’ve got to get a lot tougher in a lot of areas.”
As Nachbaur mentioned, there were many opportunities for Spokane on Saturday night.
The Americans took a 2-0 lead in the first period after goals from Justin Feser – who finished with two – and Zachary Yuen. Spokane responded as Dominik Uher scored on a feed from Dylan Walchuk at 16 minutes, 36 seconds. Less than 30 seconds later Uher assisted on Mitch Holmberg’s 24th goal of the season.
Uher has scored 11 goals and has 18 points in his last 13 games.
“We’ve got to get all four lines going and then our goalies have to be good and I think when this happens – when there is confidence on the team and in the locker room – I think that we’re able to beat any team in the league,” Uher said earlier in the week. “But when guys are struggling, the whole team just kind of stops playing good and we’ve had some tough times … it’s kind of frustrating.”
Patrick Holland and Feser added to Spokane’s frustration in the second, each scoring to give the Americans a 4-2 lead, but Blake Gal scored midway through the third period to cut the Ams’ lead to one goal.
Minutes later, at 14:11, Holland scored his second of the night, followed by a power-play goal from Adam Hughesman and an empty-net goal from Brendan Shinnimin – who also had three assists in the game – to give the Ams their seventh goal.
“I think the most important thing is to get everybody ready for playoffs,” Uher said. “Everybody has to play their best in the playoffs and when everybody is on top of his game, I think we’re one of the better teams in the league. It’s consistency.”