There was no reason for “what-ifs” when the Spokane Chiefs’ season ended Wednesday night.
The Portland Winterhawks’ 5-0 victory at the Arena capped a 4-0 series sweep that left Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur wondering where his team’s offense went.
“It felt pretty hollow, as a matter of fact,” Nachbaur said after the Winterhawks ended the Western Hockey League Western Conference semifinal and advanced to play Kamloops in the conference final. That series begins April 19 in Portland.
“You need everybody on board this time of year, but it’s tough,” Nachbaur added. “It was a tough, tough series for our guys physically and they’re a good hockey team and maybe they wore out some of us mentally.”
The Winterhawks outscored the Chiefs 18-3 during the series and held Spokane to one goal for the final 212 minutes, 37 seconds, stretching back to Game 1 in Portland.
For the season as a whole, Portland finished 11-2 against the Chiefs, winning the final eight matchups.
Portland goaltender Mac Carruth posted his second shutout of the series by stopping 30 shots.
“Their goalie played good,” said captain Brenden Kichton, who played his final game with the Chiefs. “We just didn’t shoot it where we wanted. It didn’t go in for us.”
The two games at the Arena drew a combined 7,720. The energy went out of Wednesday’s crowd of 4,012 when Taylor Peters scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway at 13:05 of the first period for a 2-0 Winterhawks lead.
“Game 4s are hard to win,” said Peters, who also assisted on the fourth goal. “The other team’s on the ropes, but they’re going to battle hard. It’s just important not to get cocky. … We came through big-time. Our guys were playing well the whole time.”
Nachbaur scratched Jackson Playfair and Todd Fiddler for Game 4 and gave a shot to Stewart Coyle and Markson Bechtold. Fiddler led the Chiefs in goals scored during the regular season.
“Our young guys deserved to play,” Nachbaur said. “Just based on what I’ve seen the whole series, we needed to inject some new life.”
Spokane, trailing 2-0, opened the second period having to kill a 5-on-3 Portland power play. Chiefs goalie Eric Williams made a good save on Ty Rattie’s attempt as the 5-on-3 ended, but Rattie scored his 11th goal of the postseason at 1:42 on a 5-on-4 power play.
Joey Baker and Taylor Leier added third-period rebound goals for Portland.
“They have good skaters and they’re big and they’re skilled,” Nachbaur said. “They used that to their advantage in this series.”
Blake Gal and Dylan Walchuk, Spokane’s other 20-year-olds with Kichton, also capped their Chiefs careers. Spokane left wing Alessio Bertaggia, 19, has signed a contract to play with a professional team in his native Switzerland.
“It was a good year and I thought we exceeded expectations,” Kichton said. “I wish we would have played better in the last series here, but other than that I’m pretty happy with the year we had.”