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Penalties, hat trick hurt Chiefs in opener

Spokane Chiefs logo (The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Chiefs logo (The Spokesman-Review)

PORTLAND ¬– Friday night turned raggedy and Rattie for the Spokane Chiefs.

The Chiefs were whistled for 16 infractions and Ty Rattie had a natural hat trick in the third period as the Portland Winterhawks wore down the Chiefs 7-2 to open the Western Hockey League Western Conference semifinals at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Oliver Bjorkstrand added a pair of second-period rebound goals as Portland scored five unanswered goals in the final 25-plus minutes after the game was tied at 2.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Saturday night at the Rose Garden. Portland owns five consecutive wins over Spokane, which hasn’t defeated the Winterhawks since Jan. 23.

“We were good tonight, but it’s the playoffs and we have to play these guys three more times,” said Derrick Pouliot, who assisted on the go-ahead goal, scored the fourth, and assisted on two of Rattie’s goals. “We expect a battle.”

“We gotta put this one behind us,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “It was 2-2 late in the game and we have to find some composure. They’re a good club and we just self-destructed and we have to learn from that.”

Rattie broke the franchise career record for points with 72. Taking advantage of an exhausted Chiefs defense, he scored at 47 seconds, 5:28 and 16:23 of the third period.

“We made mistakes late in the game because our guys got tired,” Nachbaur said.

Spokane outshot Portland 40-39 overall and killed off six of the Winterhawks’ eight power-play chances. Spokane was 0 for 3 with the extra man.

“To our credit, I thought our penalty kill was pretty good,” Nachbaur said. “But there were way too many calls, whether they were earned or not. Way too many guys going over to the penalty box and I thought we lost our composure.”

Portland dominated the early play, holding the Chiefs without a shot for the first 5 ½ minutes.

The Winterhawks scored at 5:46 when Taylor Leier found a loose puck out front and beat Spokane goaltender Eric Williams.

Portland’s Tyler Wotherspoon and Spokane’s Dylan Walchuk picked up roughing penalties at 8:31, setting up a 4-on-4 situation. Spokane took advantage 33 seconds later when Brenden Kichton and Reid Gow assisted on Mike Aviani’s fourth goal of the playoffs. Aviani was wide open out front for a 1-on-1 play with Portland goalie Mac Carruth.

The Chiefs were whistled for two delay penalties late in the first. Spokane killed off Portland’s first power-play chance, then opened the second period one man down for the first 1:49.

Spokane continued to kill the Winterhawks’ power play during the rugged second period, but Bjorkstrand’s goal at 4:05 gave Portland a 2-1 lead.

Todd Fiddler tied the game at 2 at 7:23 when the Chiefs were on the penalty kill. Fiddler chased down a cleared puck, skated around the net and shot over Carruth’s stick for his third postseason goal.

Bjorkstrand’s second goal of the period, at 14:44, came on a 4-on-4 and gave the Winterhawks a 3-2 edge. Pouliot scored a little more than 2 ½ minutes later for a 4-2 lead.

“They scored on that 4-on-4 and it was all uphill from there,” Nachbaur said.

“They’re going to come out playing well tomorrow and we have to match them,” said Carruth, who stopped 38 shots.