This is not the time of year for the Spokane Chiefs to play some of their worst hockey.
Almost nothing went right Wednesday at the Arena, as the Chiefs lost their third consecutive game, this time a mostly listless 6-3 Western Hockey League decision at the hands of the Seattle Thunderbirds.
“It was gross,” Chiefs coach Dan Lambert said, describing the Chiefs output. “We got outworked, we got outcompeted, we didn’t want to get involved physically and that’s what happens.”
Seattle’s Sami Moilanen had two goals and an assist to lead the Thunderbirds.
The Chiefs were playing from behind nearly the entire night, and that seemed to get them flustered and off their game.
“You’re trying to regain those goals you let up, but it can’t really change the way you play,” Jaret Anderson-Dolan said. “I think tonight it kind of did and in the past couple games, too. When we’ve been trailing we’ve gotten away from the way we’re supposed to play. We’re trying to cheat for offense and that’s where those rushes are coming from.”
Anderson-Dolan got the Chiefs on the board first when he put a wrist shot past Seattle goaltender Liam Hughes at 3 minutes, 30 seconds of the first period. It was Anderson-Dolan’s team-leading 38th goal of the season.
But the lead quickly turned into a two-goal deficit, and it was all thanks to the Chiefs’ own doing.
Moilanen got his first of the night after taking a Spokane turnover and putting it past Chiefs goaltender Dawson Weatherill. Moilanen’s second came after Nolan Volcan avoided a hit from Tyson Helgesen. Volcan found an opening to slide the puck to Moilanen, who quickly scored.
Then Spokane left Samuel Huo all alone in front of Weatherill at 13:38 of the first and suddenly it was 3-1 Seattle.
“We weren’t very good defensively,” Anderson-Dolan said. “We let guys walk off the wall and weren’t staying between our guy and the net, and three of their goals came from that and the others were on the rush. It came from us. We gave them all their goals.”
The Chiefs did get back into the game, starting with Hudson Elynuik’s power-play goal with 10 seconds left in the first. Anderson-Dolan scored his second of the night on a power play at 2:04 of the second to tie the game at 3.
But more mistakes put the Chiefs on the path of defeat. Jake Lee fought off a check from Milos Fafrak and scored to break the tie. That goal ended Weatherill’s night as newly recalled Bailey Brkin took over.
But things didn’t get better.
“I was hoping to get a spark and it didn’t really happen,” Lambert said. “We answered that spark by giving up a breakaway for his first shot, but thank goodness the guy lost the puck.”
Goals by Matthew Wedman and Zack Andrusiak off another Chiefs turnover gave Seattle a 6-3 lead.
With the regular season now down to three games and the playoffs on the horizon, playoff positioning in the U.S. Division is still fluid. Spokane is three points ahead of the streaking Tri-City Americans for third place. The two play Friday in Spokane and Saturday in Kennewick.
A fourth-place finish means that a team’s first-round opponent is one of two division winners, based on the WHL’s playoff system.
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