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Wednesday, September 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Chiefs strong effort goes for naught

Spokane Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said his postgame talk to his team on Saturday was short and sweet.

"The guys played well, outcome wasn’t the way we wanted it," he said after the 2-0 home loss to Portland.

The difference was 20-year old goalie Kurtis Mucha, who made 35 saves, allowing the Winterhawks to steal a win at the Arena.

"You have the sense he’s playing well for sure … I don’t know if you ever have the sense (all the bounces go against you)," Sauter said. "He must have done something right this week because he got the bounces."

No doubt it will be Mucha in goal tonight for the return game in Portland. Continue reading for the unedit game story I filed for the Sunday paper.

 

The Spokane Chiefs played a heck of a hockey game on Halloween night.

Unfortunately, Portland goalie Kurtis Mucha came dressed as future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur.

Mucha made 35 saves, more than a handful of the spectacular variety plus a penalty shot, as the Winterhawks blanked the Chiefs 2-0 before 4,642 fans at the Arena Saturday night.

“Going into the game I was really focused,” Mucha said. “The team has had a great year and I’m having an average year so I wanted to make sure I came out strong.

“Early on they tested me pretty well and I responded with some good saves. I definitely had some luck tonight, the hockey gods were with me on a few occasions but that’s the way it goes, right.”

The Winterhawks (13-5-0, 26 points) got the game winner late in the second period when Spencer Bennett poked a rebound of his own shot between Michael Tadjdeh’s pads. Jacob Berglund had centered the puck with Bennett redirecting it on goal.

Brad Ross added an empty net goal with 16 seconds left.

“It’s frustrating because when you play like this a lot of nights you’re going to get the win, at least a couple of goals,” Chiefs forward Mitch Wahl said. “If we can bring an effort close to this and bear down when we get our chances, most nights we’re going to win.”

Mucha said an early kick save got him going, adding, “After that I was kind of in a zone and they were unable to beat me tonight.”

Maybe it wasn’t Wahl who got robbed on that occasion but there were other times he certainly did – and that has been going on for nine games now as he admitted to feeling a little snakebit.

“It’s frustrating, but I’m not complaining, I’m getting my chances,” he said. “I just have to find a way to put it in the back of the net. If I keep working hard and playing the game right it will eventually turn around for me.”

And Mucha knew he had to be sharp as the Chiefs (6-6-2, 13 points) had a 14-4 shot advantage in the first period and 13-8 in the second.

“It was one of those nights I had to put up a zero … they played better than us tonight,” he said. “If they got it back to 1-1 it could have been a different night for sure.”

The Winterhawks became more aggressive offensively in the third period, out-shooting the Chiefs 13-8, which is when Tadjdeh, making his second consecutive start, made the big saves.

“You have to stay mentally prepared when they’re not getting lots of shots,” Tadjdeh said. “When your (team is) getting lots of shots you think your team is going to succeed.”

Both teams ate at the Arena after the game and headed to Portland for a game 5 p.m. game today.  

“If we play with that effort and generate those kind of chances, we’re going to win a lot of games,” Spokane coach Hardy Sauter said. “It’s very rare that a goalie plays that well on a nightly basis. Hats off to him, he was hot.

“I’m sure they’re a little bit discouraged but we should have confidence going in there. We played extremely well, we generated chances. We’ll obviously go over any defensive breakdowns and hopefully shore those up. Ultimately we feel like we played a great game tonight, we just didn’t get a bounce offensively when we needed one.”

Ice chips: Spokane rookie Mitch Holmberg was awarded a penalty shot early in the second period but Mucha stopped  him when he tried to go to his backhand. … The Chiefs only had one power play opportunity, Portland just three. … Spokane forward T.C. Cratsenberg didn’t dress for the second straight game after serving a one-game suspension for a match misconduct last Saturday against Tri-City – his second suspension. . . . Next week Chilliwack, which beat WHL leading Calgary on Saturday, is here on Wednesday and Vancouver comes in on Saturday, the only trip to town for the B.C. Division leaders. The Chiefs are at Seattle on Friday.




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