Hard as it may be to believe by what transpired at the Arena Tuesday night, the Spokane Chiefs lost to the Prince George Cougars earlier this season.
Granted, it was a 2-1 overtime game in PG the second game of the Western Hockey League season, but it was a loss – one of just five wins the Cougars have administered this season.
About the only thing the Cougars accomplished in this meeting – a dull 3-0 Chiefs victory – was to take the announced crowd of 3,645 out of the game, which is what happens when the opposition provides little resistance.
Michael Tadjdeh had 25 routine saves in handing PG its fourth shutout of the season.
“It’s tough getting up for these games with PG being at the bottom of the pack,” said Spokane forward Blake Gal, who had two assists. “You’ve got to come in mentally prepared and do what you have to do to get the win.”
It’s not that PG was without merit. The Cougars (5-23-2, 12 points) battled, but they accomplished little. Meanwhile, after Jared Spurgeon’s goal 1:52 into the game and Jared Cowen’s nifty rush late in the first period the Chiefs (19-8-2, 40 points) went on cruise control.
“I think our guys, as a group, realized you never want to let a team off the hook,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “There were times we had chances and probably should have scored, but didn’t. With a 5-on-3 power play at the end, those can come back and bite you.”
Spurgeon notched his second goal when his shot from the bottom of the right circle somehow eluded Cougars goalie Hudson Stremmel.
Cowen gathered the puck at his blue line, banked a pass to himself off the left board as he went around a forward, then went around a defenseman and cut in on Stremmel when he reached the endline, scoring his fifth goal with a high backhand.
“It was like the old days back in minor hockey when you can do that whenever you want,” Cowen said. “I feel like I was skating good tonight. I don’t know what their guys were doing. I felt good after the goal, though.”
The Chiefs outshot the Cougars 16-6 in the first period and had numerous chances to score, as it appeared at times they were on a power play as they kept the puck in the offensive zone.
However, the second period was a yawner. On the only power play of the first two periods, Spokane failed to get a shot and both teams mustered just five shots. A couple of skirmishes in the late going was the only thing that woke up the crowd.
PG, which had a late 5-on-3 power play, outshot the Chiefs 14-11 in the third period, but the only goal was Tyler Johnson’s 16th at 7:20. Kenton Miller kept the puck alive in the corner and Gal drove it to the net with Johnson poking it in.
“I liked our first period and I liked our third,” Sauter said. “I wasn’t a big fan of our second. After the first I kind of warned them we were starting to be a little complacent. After the second, where we had five shots on net – that’s just nowhere near enough – I thought after the second period our guys really did do a better job trying to get the puck to the net.”
Tadjdeh, in his first start in more than two weeks, picked up his first win since Oct. 17 by stopping 25 shots for his third career shutout and first with Spokane.
“Everyone just shored up all the little things and paid the price to get it for me,” Tadjdeh said. “It was good to be able to see all the shots. The team did a real good job playing solid defense in front of me since I haven’t played in a game situation for a while.
“It’s fairly tough so you have to treat practices as your games, give 110 percent all the time.”
Goalie Alex Wright, who had a cup of coffee with the Chiefs last year and was in training camp in August, was PG’s backup goalie. He has a 2-4-1 record with a 4.74 goals-against average and a saves percentage of 87. Neither Wright nor Stremmel were with the Cougars when the Chiefs opened the season in PG with a 6-3 win and the overtime loss. … Cowen will depart for the Canada’s junior national training camp after Friday’s game at Chilliwack. … The Chiefs are home Saturday against Swift Current, which is the Teddy Bear toss. … Johnson, who is going to the U.S. camp, will leave after Tuesday’s game in Seattle. … Defenseman Stefan Ulmer, headed to the Austrian camp, won’t miss any games before the Christmas break, which starts after Seattle visits Dec. 18. … Levko Koper, one of the Chiefs’ top scorers, sat out his third straight game with a lower body injury but should be ready for the Chilliwack game. Tanner Mort, a 16-year-old defenseman, played forward in Koper’s place.
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