The Spokane Chiefs had a great weekend.
That may be news to some since the Chiefs opened their Western Hockey League preseason schedule with a 3-2 loss to Portland and 4-3 loss to Tri-City before blanking Seattle 3-0 in the Everett Tournament on Sunday.
However, coach Hardy Sauter said, “If you had to rate our weekend, and we don’t rate it on wins and losses, evaluating our progress it would be between an eight and a nine. It went good for us.”
It was all about ice time.
“We got our young guys into all three games,” Sauter said. “This year, only having five exhibition games, we thought that was a big deal. Every player got better in each game. We improved as a group, but we still have a little bit of catch-up with those teams that started a week before we did.”
For example, the game with Portland was the third for the Winterhawks.
No one lost a chance to make the team for a variety of reasons.
“Right now we can’t let anybody go anywhere just because of numbers,” Sauter said. “We have 24 guys and two are goalies. If anyone goes down with the flu or something, we’re in trouble.”
Besides, he said, “They all did something at some point that would lead us to think they could play for us. We’re very optimistic we’re going to be able to bring in lots of young faces to make the team. That said, they’re not going to be superstars right away. They have to learn, work and improve as the season goes on.”
Before the game Sauter said he hoped the coaching staff would have to make some difficult decisions and that’s the way the preseason is shaping up, especially among goalies.
Here’s the update from Sauter.
“(Likely No. 1) James Reid did outstanding in Game One. Quite honestly he kept us in it.” (Reid left for the Vancouver Canucks camp after the game.)
“The second game Chase Martin played against Tri-City. And again, we were better. We took way too many penalties, but he did a good job keeping us in it.”
“Third game we played much better. Alex (Wright) played real solid. He threw up a zero.”
Conclusion? “Every goalie showed us we have some hard decisions to make. … That’s a funny thing to wish for.”
Numbers are also down because of five players at NHL camps. Speaking of which, forward Tyler Johnson scored a power-play goal in a Minnesota rookie game against Dallas that the Wild won 2-1 in a shootout. Sauter also said the team had heard from Levko Koper, who said he had gotten off to a good start at Atlanta’s rookie camp.
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