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Sunday, October 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A line on the Chiefs

Using the arrival of Kyle Beach as the focal point, we checked in with Spokane Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter about how he put his lines together early in the hockey season. That serves as our notebook lead prior to Friday's Western Hocker League game with Portland Friday at the Arena. Check the extended entry for the unedited story that will appear in Friday's paper.

A couple of quick notes, Gregg Drinnan has a piece on a WHL coach/GM and his White House connections, a fun little read; and there's a Nick Patterson's story in the Everett Herald about the Silvertips' long layoff.

Hardy Sauter says his job doesn’t involve rocket science but like all coaches part of his job involves chemistry.

The Spokane Chiefs second-year coach tries to find player combinations that produce the best results to make his hockey team potent, particularly on offense.

But unlike coaches in other sports, that chemistry goes beyond just the right mix of players of players to have a harmonious locker room, which generally translates into some degree of success. In hockey the coach has to find four different forward line combinations that produce on-ice success.

“I’m looking for guys that can somewhat complement each other,” Sauter said. “Whether it’s speed with speed, puck control down low, sometimes old with young, it depends on what we’re trying to do. There are variables that factor into it.

 “Sometimes you get lucky in practice. Two guys may be doing a drill together and you think they look pretty good together. Sometimes you put combinations together that absolutely don’t work. You don’t try to explain why, you just change them up.

“It’s a little bit gut feeling, a little bit trial and error.”

The trial-and-error factor came into play last week when the Chiefs acquired Kyle Beach from Lethbridge.

The forward was despite by Spokane fans and players a like when he played for Everett, but Sauter and general manager Tim Speltz are convinced the leadership on the team wouldn’t allow any disruption in the locker room.

Finding the on-ice fit for a point-per-game player and first-round NHL draft choice is another matter, especially with just two practices to tinker.

Beach, spent one practice on the line centered by Mitch Wahl, the other on Tyler Johnson’s line, the sense being the potential for two strong lines since Beach and Levko Koper, who had four goals in two games, play the same position.

Yet, when the Chiefs faced Tri-City on Saturday, Beach came out with Wahl and Koper.

“One, I thought initially we don’t really have someone, I guess with enough experience, to play with those other two guys on a regular basis, at least right away,” Sauter said. “Maybe later but not right now.

“Also, I thought (Blake) Gal, Johnson and (David) Conrad or (Dominik) Uher had pretty good chemistry in Prince George and they’d be able to carry it through to Tri City as well, which they did.

“It wasn’t rocket science, it was matter of putting them in there and see how it went.”

Obviously it went well with Beach scoring two goals and Wahl another in a 5-2 win over the Americans.

But that doesn’t mean the tinkering is done, although the less the better.

“There’s no right or wrong answer (but) usually you have things set by middle or end of November,” Sauter said. “Your group kind of settles into a rhythm, what their roles and responsiblities are. Sometimes guys get hot, sometimes guys get cold, someone gets injured, maybe you bring in a player have to find the right spot for. Variables can change things up but for the most part, the sooner you know it allows them more time to get comfortable with each other.”

Ice chips

Chiefs forward T.C. Cratsenberg, who received a match penalty against Tri-City for pulling off an opponent’s helmet during a fight in Saturday’s home opener, has been suspended for one game and will miss Friday’s game with Portland at the Arena. … Rookie forward Mike Aviani, 16, was reassigned by the Chiefs.

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