March 29, 2012 in Sports

Chiefs have passed tests in WHL playoffs

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Chiefs goalie, Eric Williams makes a save against Vancoucer in the first period, March 27, 2012 in the Spokane Arena.
(Full-size photo)

The entire Western Hockey League playoff run is a test, with a constant flow of different challenges for players and teams along the way.

The Spokane Chiefs have already been tested in some big ways in their best-of-7 Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Vancouver Giants – which resumes tonight with Game 5 at the Pacific Coliseum.

After losing star defenseman Brenden Kichton to a broken jaw in Game 1, allowing the Giants to score 14 goals (seven in each game), and dropping the first two games of the series in Vancouver, Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said the Chiefs were looking “like a deer in headlights.”

“We had too many guys standing around watching them play,” he added.

Nachbaur’s comments following Spokane’s play in Games 3 and 4 – played Tuesday and Wednesday in Spokane – were drastically different, as the Chiefs settled down without losing sight of the sense of urgency they needed to win both games.

Tied 2-2, the series is now essentially a best-of-3 – with Game 6 in Spokane on Sunday, and Game 7, if necessary, on Wednesday back in Vancouver.

“We know we can play with them now,” Nachbaur said. “We’ve done a lot of groundwork in this series. Yeah, we didn’t play well in the first two games, but I think we implemented some things that are starting to show up in our game.”

Goalie Eric Williams is likely to get his third straight start tonight after backstopping Spokane in its two wins this week.

Williams made 26 saves on Tuesday and 21 on Wednesday, earning the start in Game 3 after replacing Mac Engel late in the second period in Game 2.

“I think the team played better in front of our goalie,” Nachbaur said. “I’ve said (this) all year long – when the team plays well in front of our goalies, our goalies make saves. When they’re left hanging out to dry by themselves – it’s a tough scenario for us. I think we buckled down defensively.

“Now we’ve got another challenge in that we’ve got to carry this momentum into Vancouver and win on the road. It’ll be a good test for us.”

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