Don Nachbaur frequently says, “Our best players have to be our best players.”
By that, the Chiefs coach means that Spokane’s chances at success are limited unless the team’s season-long leaders carry the load.
Spokane’s best players have been all but negated by the Portland Winterhawks’ best players during the first two games of their Western Hockey League Western Conference semifinal. The Chiefs are in the midst of a scoreless streak of nearly 93 minutes, since Todd Fiddler’s shorthanded goal during the second period of Game 1.
Portland has outscored Spokane 8-0 since Oliver Bjorkstrand’s rebound goal with 5:16 left in the second period of the opener.
“We’ve given up far too many opportunities,” Nachbaur said after Saturday’s 3-0 setback in Game 2 at the Rose Garden. “We have to really buckle down and adjust some things in our game.
“We have to put this one behind us, forget about the 0-2 (deficit) and get back in the series.”
The Chiefs hope to receive a positive jolt by playing on their home ice at the Arena for Game 3 today and Game 4 on Wednesday. The Chiefs haven’t played at home since March 23, Game 2 of their five-game opening-round series against the Tri-City Americans.
Counting postseason, the Chiefs are 27-10-1-0 at home this season. The negative news: Spokane was 1-3 at home against the Winterhawks.
“It’s rare that you play five consecutive road (playoff) games,” said Nachbaur, whose team clinched the Tri-City series by winning two of three games in Kennewick. “It’s going to be good to get the crowd behind us, get some adrenaline, and we just have to win the next game.”
Power-play opportunities were lopsided during the first two games in Portland. The Winterhawks had 12 chances, three times as many as Spokane, but the Chiefs’ penalty kill was successful 10 of the 12 times.
Captain Brenden Kichton is the only Chiefs player with more than one point in the series, as he assisted on both goals during Friday’s 7-2 loss. Alessio Bertaggia, who led Spokane with eight points in the Tri-City series, and Mitch Holmberg, who had six points against the Americans, have no points against Portland.
As Nachbaur might say, the Chiefs need their best to be the best the next two nights.