Just one night removed from a spirited win to break a losing streak, the Spokane Chiefs came out flat Saturday night and stayed that way in a 3-0 loss to the Victoria Royals.
The Chiefs (4-6-1-1) beat the Royals 2-1 on Friday night to end a six-game losing streak. But the hometown team could not match the Royals’ intensity and suffered its second shutout of the season.
“This team is as guilty as any team I’ve ever coached of starting the wrong way,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said. “We weren’t engaged at all. That comes down to preparedness. We weren’t prepared to play.”
Spokane’s pain started quickly.
The Royals’ Matthew Phillips took a crisp pass from Dante Hannoun and Phillips skipped the puck past Spokane goalie Tyson Verhelst to take a 1-0 lead before the game was 2 minutes old.
At the 6:27 mark, Jack Walker got it to go past Verhelst for a power-play goal. The puck bounced out so quickly that the referees and many of the fans were unsure of the goal. Assists were awarded on the play to Phillips and Joe Hicketts.
The Chiefs were outshot 11-5 in the first period and could not do anything with two power-play opportunities against the Royals, who played much sharper in all phases of the game.
The Royals (8-5-0-0) continued their strong play in the second period. The Chiefs picked up their effort and finally got several good looks, but they couldn’t get any pucks into the net.
Both teams failed to cash in on two power plays each in the second period. After trailing all night, the Chiefs finally caught up and ended the second period with 17 shots on goal compared to 18 for the Royals.
Early in the third period, Kailer Yamamoto squirted through the defense and stole the puck right in front of the Royals’ net. But, he couldn’t get it to go.
The Chiefs finally showed spunk in the third period, about the time that Evan Fiala and the Royals’ Chaz Reddekopp dropped gloves on the ice.
The Chiefs mostly kept the puck on the opposite end of the ice and kept attacking Victoria’s goal, but to no avail. As a result, the Chiefs held a 21-19 shots-on-goal advantage but trailed by the same 2-0 margin.
About midway through the final period, the Chiefs’ attack ran out of gas. To add insult to injury, the puck came free in front of the Chiefs’ net and Ryan Peckford slammed it home with 4:08 to play to make it 3-0.
“We are not good enough to just go out and play,” Nachbaur said. “We’ve got to find ourselves. It’s in and out. Some nights it’s on and some nights it’s blah.”
The Chiefs will hit the road to play Medicine Hat, Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Kamloops and Tri-City before returning home on Nov. 7 to play Everett.
Verhelst, who had 23 saves on 26 shots on goal, said the Royals simply outplayed the Chiefs.
“It’s a learning lesson. We can’t take a team lightly just because we beat them the night before,” Verhelst said. “On the road, we just need to take one game at a time. I think we’ll get a couple wins.”
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