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Chiefs fall to Americans in preseason action

Spokane Chiefs  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Chiefs (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Preseason games may not count, but that doesn’t mean Spokane Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur ignores the numbers.

Nachbaur was well aware that his team gave the Tri-City Americans nine power-play opportunities on Wednesday night during a 2-1 Western Hockey League preseason defeat at the Eastern Washington University Recreation Center.

“I could defend our guys and say some of them were unwarranted, and that’s a fact, but I think we played pretty undisciplined,” Nachbaur said after the Chiefs dropped to 2-4 in the preseason, with one game left Saturday in Kennewick. “When the game was on the line, we took some needless penalties and it really cost us our momentum.”

The Chiefs fought off eight Americans power-play chances, including the first six, but the seventh T-C opportunity cost them. After Connor Chartier’s charging penalty early in the third period, Brian Williams scored his fifth goal of the preseason at 5 minutes, 23 seconds to give Tri-City a 2-0 edge.

Spokane outshot the Americans 13-5 in the third period and 28-18 for the game, but the penalties had an effect.

“I think it gets pretty repetitive,” said 20-year-old right wing Mitch Holmberg, who assisted on Spokane’s only goal. “We had a lot of penalties there in the second period. It kind of takes your momentum away, only being able to play certain guys.”

Some of the younger guys and even some of the older guys start sitting on the bench for 4, 5, 6 minutes at a time.”

The Chiefs finally cashed in at 11:13 of the third, after a tripping penalty by T-C’s Wil Tomchuk. Adam Helewka, Spokane’s rookie of the year last season, punched in a rebound goal for his second score of the postseason.

“The bottom line is, for me, we didn’t compete nearly hard enough the first two periods,” Nachbaur said. “I thought the tempo of our game went up in the third period. You’d like to see it for 60 minutes, but a lot of guys have to go through an adjustment period.”

“Taking a loss like that, it’s a hard one to swallow right now, because going into the regular season you want to get it all going together,” Holmberg said. “You want to get it going in the right way and I don’t think tonight was our best effort.”

Spokane will begin the regular season Sept. 21 on the Americans’ home ice. The Chiefs’ home opener is Sept. 28, also against Tri-City.

“They’re a good opponent and it really exploits who we are,” Nachbaur said. “I thought they came out and hit us early in the game and we didn’t respond to that at all.”

The Chiefs began the day by reassigning 16-year-olds Evan Fiala and Tyson Verhelst, leaving them with a roster of 28.

Fiala, a defenseman, was the Chiefs’ first-round pick in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft. He returns to the Saskatoon Contacts Midget AAA of the Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League. Verhelst, a goaltender, was selected in third round in 2012. He has been assigned to the Neepawa Natives of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

The Chiefs must trim their roster to 25 by Oct. 10.