There weren’t many positive vibrations drifting around the Spokane Chiefs locker room following Friday night’s 1-0 Western Hockey League exhibition loss to the Tri-City Americans.
The Chiefs had just outshot their opponents 35-28 in chilly Eagles Ice-A-Rena, keeping a small, but appreciative, crowd in the action for 60 minutes. But they didn’t do much to please first-year coach Bill Peters.
“That’s not acceptable,” Peters said of his team’s uninspired effort. “We accepted being boxed out, and we were soft. We were just a very easy team to play against.”
What seemed to eat at Peters the most was the Chiefs’ reluctance to go to the net on the offensive end of the ice. That, he explained, was what made the shots-on-goal totals so meaningless.
“We were one shot and done the whole night,” Peters lamented. “I don’t know if we got a rebound shot. I sure don’t remember any.
“We didn’t have anybody get their nose dirty on a regular basis out there.”
Veteran center Chad Klassen agreed that the shots on goal numbers were misleading.
“It might have seemed like we played OK because of that, but the guys in the dressing room thought it was a different story,” he said. “Sure, we got a lot of shots on net, but there was no one going for the second shot, and that’s what really matters. That’s how you get your goals – on rebounds and stuff, when you’re going hard to the net.”
Still, Klassen admitted Tri-City goaltender Nick Olynyk came up big on several occasions while turning away all 35 shots the Chiefs attempted, including 17 in the second period.
“He played well,” Klassen said of the 19-year-old Olynyk. “But we also helped make him look good. We got a lot of outside shots, but anyone can stop a shot from the point. It’s those second and third shots that matter, and we didn’t get many.”
As a result, Chris Inglis’ unassisted power play goal near the end of the first period proved to be the only one the Americans needed in avenging last Saturday’s 7-4 exhibition loss to the Chiefs.
The game was the final exhibition for the Chiefs, who open their regular-season WHL schedule next Saturday in Cranbrook, British Columbia, with a 6 p.m. matchup against the Kootenay Ice.
The Chiefs, who finished their exhibition season at 3-3, hope to have all six of their veteran players still working out at various NHL training camps back by then.
“I think we’ll bounce back from (this loss) really well,” Klassen said. “We got a bunch of guys coming back from pro camp (next) week, which will be exciting. We’ll step up practice (next) week.”
Americans 1, Chiefs 0
First period: T-C, Inglis (unassisted), 18:46.
Shots on goal: Tri-City 6-12-10–28; Spokane 10-17-8–35.
Goalies/saves: Tri-City, Olynyk, 35. Spokane, Watt, 27.
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