The scoring touch the Spokane Chiefs had in their past three games didn’t show up to the Arena, as the Chiefs couldn’t find opportunities in a 4-2 loss to the Kelowna Rockets.
The Chiefs had trouble finding their identity all night – the one that helped them score 27 goals in their previous five games.
The visiting Rockets – sitting in second place in the B.C. Division despite missing four regulars to injury, including top scorer Kole Lind – were the aggressor throughout the game.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, had trouble finding shooting lanes and getting consistent offensive zone time.
“I think it starts with our older guys, we have to be ready to play,” defenseman and captain Tyson Helgesen said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We have to find out identity here and stick to our game plan.”
The Chiefs iced a renovated lineup from what they’ve showcased the past three games. Forward Jeff Faith was scratched for the first time this season, and rookie Cedric Chenier was inserted into the lineup, in addition to juggled lines.
Kelowna scored three goals in the second period to erase a 1-0 Chiefs lead. The Chiefs got that lead when Zach Fischer scored his 11th of the season after he put in a rebound past Kelowna goaltender and Bonners Ferry, ID native James Porter.
But Kelowna started the second period strong, thanks to a penalty Kailer Yamamoto picked up at the end of the first period.
Kelowna’s Carsen Twarynski sent a snipe past Spokane goaltender Donovan Buskey from just inside the blue line 41 seconds into the period.
Nolan Foote gave Kelowna the lead at 6:08 of the second period and Liam Kindree gave the Rockets the lead for good at 10:58 when he put a rebound past Buskey.
The Chiefs found themselves stuck in their own end for chunks of time throughout the game, tiring their defense and giving Kelowna ample scoring chances.
Down two goals, the Chiefs had a number of chances to get back into the game. Kelowna’s Kyle Topping took a tripping penalty at 5:52 of the third period but the Chiefs came up empty on the ensuing power play.
Kindree then went off for slashing with 6:31 to play, giving the Chiefs another scoring opportunity. But this time, it was Kelowna who cashed in when Dillon Dube scored shorthanded.
“I think we have to simplify our game in our own end,” Helgesen said. “Too many times we tried to make the extra play. We just need to get (the puck) out and up to our forwards and start playing in their end, because that’s where we’ve been successful.”
The Chiefs were just 1-for-7 on the power play. A late Luke Toporowski goal came with the man advantage, but it was too little, too late.
Despite the loss, the Chiefs remain one point ahead of the Tri-City Americans for second place in the U.S. Division. The Americans lost to the Seattle Thunderbirds Friday. Spokane and Tri-City meet tonight in Kennewick.
Chiefs add goaltender Declan Hobbs
Prior to Friday’s game, the Chiefs called up goaltender Declan Hobbs from the Nipawin Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League as an affiliated player. Hobbs replaces Dawson Weatherill, who was scratched Friday.
The Chiefs acquired Hobbs, 19, through a trade with the Kootenay Ice in June. Hobbs played in three preseason games for the Chiefs and had a .910 save percentage and a 3.37 goals against average.
Hobbs has a .920 save percentage and a 2.07 goals against average with the Hawks in 13 games.