Chiefs stumble to open second half
Kootenay’s Skapski stops 36 of 37 shots
The Spokane Chiefs made life miserable for Mackenzie Skapski on Friday night.
Twenty-four hours later, Skapski repaid the favor.
Skapski stopped 36 of 37 shots Saturday night at the Arena to guide the Kootenay Ice to a 2-1 win over the Chiefs that marked Spokane’s official start to the second half of the Western Hockey League season.
The Chiefs scored five goals off Skapski in two periods Friday during a 6-4 win in Cranbrook, British Columbia.
“I’m pretty good with my bounce-back game and tonight I came in here focused and ready to go and have some fun,” said Skapski, a 2013 sixth-round NHL draft selection by the New York Rangers.
“Any goalie that can see every puck is going to make a save and (Skapski) saw every puck,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We never got guys to the net. It never occurred to us that we should dig in and get to the net. A lot of guys were just floating in behind the play and not getting there.”
The Chiefs outshot the Ice 37-22 but were limited to one power-play opportunity, with 5 minutes left after a hooking call against Jaedon Descheneau. Skapski stood up to that man advantage for the Chiefs, and a couple of solid chances after Spokane pulled goalie Eric Williams with 1:20 left.
“Only giving up one power play is beneficial, because (the Chiefs are) first in the league on the power play (26 percent), and that was kind of the game plan going in,” Skapski said.
“I’m not going to complain about the refereeing,” Nachbaur said. “When you’re skating, you’re going to draw penalties, and we weren’t skating the way I like it, that’s for sure.”
Kootenay (19-17-2-1) improved to 2-1 against Spokane (22-13-0-2) this season. The Chiefs are otherwise 7-1-0-1 against teams from the Eastern Conference.
The Ice scored a pair of first-period goals off Williams, including Levi Cable’s goal at 11:35 on Kootenay’s first shot of the game. Zach McPhee added a power-play goal at 15:33 after a holding penalty by Blair Oneschuk, one of two penalties against the Chiefs on the night.
“We gave up two, for me, weak goals,” Nachbaur said. “We gave up too many mistakes where we wrapped the puck around the goal by our goaltender. They weren’t good goals and we put enough pucks on their goalie to make a game of it, but we weren’t sharp. … There was no speed to our game and we got what we deserved.”
Chiefs left wing Dominic Zwerger scored his sixth goal of the season, a backhander off a rebound midway through the second period, to end the scoring. Reid Gow (his 35th) and Jason Fram (28th) assisted on the play.
Skapski stopped late tries by Mitch Holmberg and Adam Helewka to avoid overtime.
“There were some pretty scary moments throughout the game and it could have gone either way,” Skapski said.
Spokane will play its traditional New Year’s Eve game at Tri-City on Tuesday. The Chiefs are 3-0-0-1 against Tri-City this season.
The Chiefs were at full strength except for right wing Jacob Cardiff, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. … Holmberg tied Joff Kehler for 13th on the club’s all-time list with 279 games played.