If there were any hope left for the Spokane Chiefs, or any doubt remaining whether their season is over, it’s beginning to look all but mathematical at this point.
In the span of 10 minutes on Wednesday, the Chiefs gave up two goals in a scoreless game, then lost leading scorer Chad Klassen to injury for the remainder of the season. The Chiefs ultimately fell to the Portland Winter Hawks 4-0 before 4,340 at the Arena in a loss that severely dimmed their playoff hopes.
The one bright spot – if you’re still looking – is that the Tri-City Americans blew a lead and lost to Kootenay 3-1 in Kennewick. So the Americans didn’t increase their two-point lead in the standings with the regular season ending on Sunday.
Spokane closes its season this weekend with a pair of games against Kootenay and must hope that it wins one game more than Tri-City (which has three remaining games). If that occurs, Spokane could tie for fourth in the standings and get the chance to meet the Americans in a play-in game at home on Tuesday.
As things have been for the Chiefs this season, once things got bad against Portland, they steamrolled.
The Winter Hawks scored first when Brandon Dubinsky put in a puck just out of the reach of Spokane goaltender Kevin Opsahl after Opsahl made a couple of spectacular stops at 9:37 of the second.
Then, at the 15-minute mark of the second, Portland’s Sasha Golin put in long rebound to give the Winter Hawks what would seem to be an insurmountable lead at 2-0.
Soon thereafter, Klassen hobbled off the ice with a season-ending medial collateral ligament (MCL) knee injury. He was the victim of knee-on-knee contact with a Portland player.
Portland put the game out of reach in the third with two goals in the first 6:09 of the period, the first by rookie Colton Sceviour and the other on Dubinsky’s second goal of the game at the 13:51 mark.
All that was left at that point was the ritualistic bloodbath, and Spokane captain Jevon Desautels obliged, taking on Cody McLeod in a heavyweight match.
The rest of the game was played out in non-dramatic fashion, other than a few more fisticuffs after the buzzer.
“There’s a lot of guys that should almost be disgusted with some of their efforts,” said a discouraged Chiefs coach Al Conroy.
“I thought we had a real good effort in the first period, then we just dropped right off,” Conroy said. “I don’t think that Portland necessarily picked it up in the second to take the lead. Our effort in the third was indescribable and a few guys were worse than others, which is really disappointing.”
The Chiefs showed – at least initially – that they literally had some fight left in them, early in the first period. That was an open question after the team’s dismal 6-0 loss at Seattle on Sunday night.
But after the teams found their legs in the first couple of minutes on Wednesday, a play that found Spokane’s Chris Bruton in the crease got things going down a testy path for the clubs in their final season meeting.
At the 3:23 mark, Bruton ran into Portland goaltender Blake Grenier while trying to score. Grenier then started pushing back at Bruton and the pair took their squabble behind the net as they were each called for a penalty.
Meanwhile, as both linesmen were tied up with those players, Spokane’s Matt McCue gave a boxing clinic to Cameron Cepek and they both went off for fighting.
The net result of the incident was the first of three first-period power plays for the Chiefs after Portland’s Michael Funk was called for roughing.
However, Spokane didn’t convert on any of its man-advantage situations and didn’t have anything to show for its efforts.
Winter Hawks 4, Chiefs 0
Second period– 1, Por, Dubinsky 22 (May, McLeod) 9:37; 2, Por, Golin 2 (Tipper, Bailey) 15:00.
Third period– 3, Por, Sceviour 1 (Bailey, Mikkelson) 4:18; 4, Por, Dubinsky 23 (Da Silva, McLeod) 6:09.
Power-play Opportunities–Portland 0 of 4; Spokane 0 of 6. Saves–Portland, Grenier 12-5-11–28. Spokane, Opsahl 11-10-5–25. A–4,340.
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