There’s really nothing gentle about hockey – and that includes honest feedback when a lackluster performance is turned in.
Two days after scoring an impressive victory over the Western Hockey League’s top team, the Spokane Chiefs went scoreless on six power-play opportunities and gave up a shorthanded goal late in the third period in a 3-2 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds in front of 4,243 fans on Monday afternoon at the Arena.
“Terrible,” was the first word that came out of the mouth of Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur following the game.
“It numbs you – the effort that we brought,” he added. “There was nothing. I can’t think of a guy that played well tonight and (I) shouldn’t be saying that after a huge win – that we brought that type of game against Seattle. It’s not that Seattle’s a bad team, but I don’t think we respected them – I think we thought it was going to be easy.”
Turns out, it wasn’t.
It seemed like it would be an uptempo game, judging from the fight between Chiefs captain Darren Kramer and Seattle’s Cason Machacek 21 seconds into the game. Machacek picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct minor in the melee and the Chiefs essesntially began the game with a one-man advantage.
They didn’t capitalize on the power play – or any of six of them for that matter – but at 3:44 Mike Aviani put Spokane (22-14-3-3) on the board first when he found just enough room to carry the puck left to right through the crease and lift it past Seattle netminder Calvin Pickard’s stick side for the only goal scored in the opening period.
Things took a turn for the worse in the second period when Spokane was caught with too many men on the ice. Seattle (16-24-0-1) took advantage of the penalty, resulting in Seth Swenson’s power-play goal – his first of two goals in the game and only his second and third goals of the season – that tied the score 1-1.
Spokane quickly regained a 2-1 lead at 6:42 in the second when Steven Kuhn sent a perfect feed from the low slot to Blake Gal, who one-timed a shot past Pickard for his 10th goal of the season.
Swenson tied the game at 2-2 when he scored midway through the third period.
Though it wasn’t ultimately the turning point in the game, Seattle created a 3-on-2 rush and Justin Hickman finished the play with a shorthanded goal at 14:36 of the third to give Seattle the 3-2 lead.
Chiefs goalie Mac Engel initially stopped the puck, but then drifted over the goal line, which a review confirmed.
“If I look at our group I think we were a little arrogant today, and I think there was a real lack of focus,” Kramer said. “It’s something that comes down to (how we) compete and I think that’s something we lacked through the entire 60 minutes at times.”
In one final power-play opportunity, which Spokane earned when former Chief Burke Gallimore was called for tripping Liam Stewart at center ice, Spokane’s power-play unit didn’t connect, and had no answer for Hickman’s winner.
“(I’m) terribly disappointed,” Nachbaur said. “The boys have got to look at themselves in the mirror. Too many had big heads (today) over what we did last game and (today) they got humbled – and that’s the way the sport is.
“If you don’t respect your opponent or the game of hockey you’re going to get exactly what you deserve. … And the hockey Gods gave us exactly what we deserved – a loss.”
Spokane travels to Tri-City to take on the Americans Friday night before hosting the Portland Winterhawks on Saturday and Sunday.
Thunderbirds 3, Chiefs 2
First Period—1, Spokane, Aviani 7 (Kalus, Baldwin), 3:46. Second Period—2, Seattle, Swenson 2 (Lockhart, Honey), 4:21 (PP). 3, Spokane, Gal 10 (Kuhn), 6:42. Third Period—4, Seattle, Swenson 3 (Sanvido), 11:35. 5, Seattle, Hickman 7 (Alos, Deagle), 14:36 (SH). Power-play Opp.—Seattle 1 of 2; Spokane 0 of 6. Saves—Seattle, Pickard 17-19-0-1 (33 shots-31 saves). Spokane, Engel 19-12-1-2 (24 shots-21 saves). A—4,243.