Fresh off an emotional win, the Spokane Chiefs faced traditional rival Tri-City Americans on Friday night and got handled 6-3 by their rivals to the south.
The Americans’ Parker AuCoin scored twice on a night when both teams often struggled to get much going and the Chiefs (15-15-5-1, 36 points) fell further in the standings.
“We turned the puck over more tonight than we have in the last two weeks,” coach Don Nachbaur said. “To me, that was a playoff game. One team was playing physical and the other team was absorbing it.”
Spokane got off to a quick start as defenseman Ty Smith fired a shot that deflected off of a waiting Ethan McIndoe to make it 1-0 Chiefs at the 4:37 mark of the first period.
The lead, and the joy, didn’t last long.
About six minutes later, Tri-City’s Parker Wotherspoon fired a shot that bounced off the pad of Spokane goalie Dawson Weatherill and the puck dribbled into the net to tie the game with 10:18 left in the period.
With about two minutes in the frame, Jaret Anderson-Dolan found a wide open Kailer Yamamoto, who juked and faked but couldn’t get a shot past Tri-City goalie Ryan Parenteau.
Then with 1:01 remaining in the first, Nolan Yaremko sent a pass to AuCoin, who fired it home to give Tri-City (21-16-3-0, 45 points) the 2-1 lead at the first break.
In the second period, the game evolved into a turnover fest, with both teams struggling to get much going. But about 16 minutes into the period, Tri-City’s Morgan Geekie gathered the puck and fired a laser top shelf over Weatherill to make it 3-1 Americans.
The Chiefs got hope just seconds into the third period when Kailer Yamamoto stole a pass, raced up the ice and scored a short-handed goal to make it 3-2 Tri-City.
“That was a momentum builder for us,” Nachbaur said. “We had a chance.”
But 10 minutes later, the Americans’ Michael Rasmussen scored a short-handed goal, his 27th overall of the season, to put the game out of reach at 4-2.
“That short-handed goal sucked all the wind out of our balloon, that’s for sure,” Nachbaur said. “I wouldn’t be as disappointed if we had competed harder.”
The Americans added later goals by AuCoin and Maxwell James. The Chiefs got a late goal by Keanu Yamamoto to complete the scoring at 6-3.
“That was a tough one,” defenseman Tyson Helgesen said. “We are in ninth place (Western Conference). We have to make a playoff push sooner or later. We’ve just got to come together as a team.”
The team’s roster will be changing again.
After only one game played following the trade to obtain him from Saskatoon, it appears that the career of Wyatt Sloboshan as a Chief is over.
Sloboshan went home for the holidays and has informed the team that he doesn’t intend to return. General Manager Scott Carter said the team is exploring options and a formal announcement will be made soon.
The forward was obtained on Dec. 14 in a trade that sent Markson Bechtold and defenseman Evan Fiala to Saskatoon. In return, the Chiefs got the 19-year-old Sloboshan, 18-year-old defenseman Nolan Reid and a third-round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.
Without Sloboshan, the team hits the road and plays the Americans on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in Kennewick.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.