The Spokane Chiefs got their first look at the 2012-13 Portland Winterhawks on Saturday at the Arena, and first impressions came with bumps, bruises and a thorough, 9-1 trouncing.
A night after handing highly touted Kamloops just its third loss in 21 games, the Chiefs faced a team that played stronger, faster and better able to handle the puck, especially in traffic, not to mention one basking in the glow of invulnerability, some would say arrogance, that comes from winning 11th straight games.
The Winterhawks scored goals 19 seconds apart to start the game and Spokane halved that lead on a goal by Brenden Kichton midway through the first period, but Portland led 4-1 after one period and 7-1 after two.
“We came out and had a game plan, but we didn’t execute it,” coach Don Nachbaur said. “We mismanaged the puck, especially in our own end, and you can do that against a team like (Portland). They had four goals that came off our (stick) in the first period. Four.
“I just don’t think our compete level was high enough for this game, and I mean that as a group.”
Starting goaltender Eric Williams lasted just one period for the Chiefs while Portland’s Mac Carruth, the league’s leading goaltender with a saves average of .959 and a goals-against average of 1.01, found time to make 43 saves AND pick up a roughing penalty.
By the end of the game, Carruth was offering the puck back to Spokane shooters after making glove saves.
Portland is loaded with talent and boasts seven players already drafted by the National Hockey League – six more than Spokane.
Rookie right wingers Joe Mahon and Oliver Bjorkstrand each had two goals and an assist to lead the Portland scoring barrage. Chase De Leo, Keegan Iverson, Taylor Leier, Taylor Peters and Brendan Leipsic all had a goal and an assist.
The game saw 55 penalty minutes handed out, with the Chiefs drawing 32 of those minutes, including a 5-minute major tripping penalty and a game misconduct to Collin Valcourt.
Spokane won four of the six games on the homestand. The Chiefs have a week off before playing at Seattle on Saturday.