The Spokane Chiefs looked very much like a team playing its third game in as many nights. Coupled with the Christmas break starting after the final buzzer, it all added up to a forgettable 10-3 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
And yes, Seattle’s junior hockey team outscored its NFL team by a field goal. The T-Birds also avenged a 9-2 defeat in Spokane on Dec. 9.
“Let’s forget about that one,” Chiefs coach Dan Lambert said. “At the end of the day it’s two points that we gave them. You don’t want to do that against your divisional teams but we did and it happens.”
The Chiefs got four out of a possible six points during the three-game stretch, with wins over Everett at home on Friday and on the road at Portland on Saturday.
The carnage started just 20 seconds into the game when Donovan Neuls scored out of a net-mouth scramble. The Chiefs tied the game three minutes later when Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored on the power play.
Nolan Volcan took advantage of a Chiefs turnover at the blue line and sent a shot past goaltender Donovan Buskey at 7:31 of the first period. The Chiefs got caught in their own end late in the period and Austin Strand made them pay when he scored from the point at 18:48 of the first to make it 3-1 Seattle.
The Chiefs were caught in their own end at various times throughout the game.
“It’s obviously frustrating,” defenseman Ty Smith said. “I think after a couple of those shifts you just need to kind of settle down and start establishing a forecheck and continue to get on them.”
The Chiefs suffered from some misfortune in the first period. They hit two posts and one crossbar and had other opportunities but came up empty.
Second-period goals by Blake Bargar, Nikita Malukhin and Zack Andrusiak extended Seattle’s lead to 6-1.
Buskey was pulled after Seattle’s fifth goal and was replaced by recent call-up and 15-year-old Campbell Arnold. Buskey allowed five goals on 19 shots.
Buskey has been carrying the load in net for Spokane with regular starter Dawson Weatherill out with an illness. The 17-year-old started all three games in the three-game stretch.
“It’s not easy,” Lambert said. “We’re in a situation where (Buskey’s) not used to playing that much hockey. We traveled through the night two nights in a row, but that’s what junior hockey is all about. You have to find ways to push through and find a way to be mentally strong.”
The Chiefs looked like they had their second goal of the game in the second period when Dalton Hamaliuk sent a shot from the point past Seattle goaltender Matt Berlin. But officials eventually waved the goal off, ruling Anderson-Dolan was in the crease interfering with Berlin.
The Chiefs got another power-play goal from Anderson-Dolan at 7:12 of the third period. Riley Woods followed that up nearly 90 seconds later to cut Seattle’s lead to 6-3.
But just when it looked like the Chiefs had some life, things quickly went south. Bargar got his second of the game almost a minute after Woods’ goal, and goals by Matthew Wedman, Reece Harsch and Malukhin put the Chiefs out of their misery.
Arnold ended up surrendering five goals on 10 shots. He also had a secondary assist on Anderson-Dolan’s second goal.
The two teams meet again in each team’s first game back from the Christmas break at the Arena on Dec. 27.