The only thing on the line tonight is pride.
Former Chiefs forward Burke Gallimore scored the winner late in the third period and the Seattle Thunderbirds handed Spokane another loss – this time 4-3 – in the Chiefs’ final home game of the regular season on Friday night in front of 9,103 fans at the Arena.
With first-round opponent Vancouver beating Kelowna in overtime, Spokane’s loss made it official – the Chiefs will have to take their game on the road when the Western Hockey League playoffs begin next week.
“This was one that we needed,” Chiefs captain Darren Kramer said.
It was also one they could have, and should have, had. But as Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur echoed, there was an immediate disconnect with the Chiefs from the start.
“It wasn’t four lines rolling and six defensemen coming at you with the same game plan,” Nachbaur said. “A lot of guys had their own game. It cost us the hockey game.
“That was a playoff atmosphere and … our guys still have to learn some things about what playoff hockey is about. We got a pretty good example of that tonight.”
Not that there weren’t some positive examples in the frustrating loss.
The Chiefs – who have struggled this season with an inconsistent power-play unit – finished 2 of 5 with the man advantage.
After Marek Kalus scored for Spokane midway through the opening period to send the teams into the locker room at intermission tied 1-1, Spokane took advantage of skating with the advantage. Blake Gal gave the Chiefs a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal 6 minutes, 22 seconds into the middle period. After Seattle’s Seth Swenson scored the equalizer, Dylan Walchuk gave the Chiefs a 3-2 lead with another power-play goal for Spokane at 13:08.
“We moved the puck around and got a couple goals,” Nachbaur said. “We could have scored one or two of the other ones when we had some good chances, but we didn’t.”
The Chiefs held on to the lead, but gave up a goal with 30 seconds remaining in the period as the teams returned to the locker room tied at 3-3. Gallimore scored 15:11 into the final period to seal the win for Seattle.
“With our group, anytime we have any passengers on the ice, it gets ugly,” Kramer said. “You look at the Kamloops game (a 6-4 win for Spokane on Wednesday) where we had four lines rolling and we had success and that’s what we need heading into the playoffs.”