Don Nachbaur will be the first one to tell you his Spokane Chiefs are not a run-and-gun team.
The Portland Winterhawks, however, are – so when they forced their style of hockey upon the Chiefs on Friday night the result for Spokane was a 3-2 Western Hockey League loss in overtime in front of 6,243 fans at the Arena.
Brad Ross, who finished with two goals and an assist, scored the winner 3 minutes, 38 seconds into the extra period and snapped the Chiefs’ four-game win streak.
“Totally different game tonight than the previous two games,” the Spokane Chiefs coach said. “We got trapped in their style and we’re no good at that style. We talked about that all night long, and yet our guys couldn’t get out of that funk.”
Chiefs goalie Eric Williams was one exception. The netminder made 33 saves and turned in an outstanding performance for Spokane, helping the Chiefs (26-14-4-3) pick up a point in the standings and tie Vancouver for fourth in the Western Conference with three games in hand over the Giants. Portland, which has played twice more than Spokane, is third in the conference with an eight-point lead over the Chiefs.
“He saved our bacon time and time again tonight,” Nachbaur said of his goalie.
Spokane outshot Portland 13-9 in an unusually fast first period – which, in total, lasted only 26 minutes with no scoring and no penalties.
Forward Dylan Walchuk, whose impact since joining the Chiefs on the Jan. 10 trade deadline has been significant, struck from the right circle 2:13 into the second period for his fifth goal in eight games as Spokane took a 1-0 lead.
Portland (33-14-2-1) quickly responded when Ross made a patient play and set up Cam Reid’s second goal of the season at 4:29. Reid returned the favor at 12:53, feeding Ross in the right lane, where Ross worked around Chiefs defenseman Davis Vandane and found a sharp angle on Williams to give the Winterhawks a 2-1 lead.
Finally, in the third period, there were glimpses of Spokane’s style of hockey. Chiefs captain Darren Kramer took advantage of a rare puck in front of Portland goalie Mac Carruth and tied the game with 4 minutes left in regulation.
“Did we deserve to be in overtime?” Nachbaur said. “Probably not. You’re never going to beat the best team unless all 20 guys commit to the game plan. Half of the guys were on board (the bus) and half of the guys were looking out the window.
“It’s that simple. We spent no time in their end at all, and that’s our bread and butter.
“I thought we were way too fancy and … we’re not a fancy team.”
The Chiefs were 3 for 3 on the penalty kill and 0 for 1 on the power play. … The Chiefs host Kootenay tonight at the Arena in their second of five regular-season games against the Ice. On Dec. 30, the Chiefs beat the Ice 3-2 in a shootout in Cranbrook, British Columbia. … When Spokane scores two or fewer goals in a game it is 0-10-2-1. … Dominik Uher missed a penalty-shot opportunity in the third period.
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