Facing arguably the best team in the Western Hockey League, the Spokane Chiefs came out flat Saturday night and pushed hard at the end before falling 2-1 to Prince George.
The Chiefs, who have battled injuries while trying to assimilate two new players, now head to Christmas break before next playing on Dec. 27.
“That’s a good team we played tonight,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “The game was never out of touch. Even when we were down 2-0, we thought we could break that egg and pour it on in the end. But the guys ran out of gas.”
This week the organization traded away forward Markson Bechtold and defenseman Evan Fiala to Saskatoon. In return, the Chiefs (14-13-5-1, 34 points) got forward Wyatt Sloboshan and Nolan Reid. Both were pressed into action Saturday.
“You can’t learn what we are doing in one day,” Nachbaur said. “They just got here. But in the second half, hopefully, we’ll get some guys back in the lineup.”
The only excitement early in the game came when a Prince George player smacked the ice so hard during a shot that he broke his stick, which flew high into the air and almost came down on a teammate.
Some five minutes into the game, the teams mustered only one shot on goal apiece.
But the scoring finally got started at the 5:07 mark of the first period, Prince George’s Tate Olson fired a missile that deflected off another player and into the net to give the Cougars (26-8-2-0, 54 points) a 1-0 lead.
On a night with a lot of hockey, but much of it ineffective, the Chiefs finally showed some spunk in the second period.
With about 3:30 left, Spokane’s Pavel Kousal got a steal and a breakaway. He dinked and dunked, and then failed to get the shot to go against Prince George goalie Ty Edmonds.
“We ran into a hot goalie,” Nachbaur said.
In the third period, the Cougars added a second goal when Aaron Boyd scored with 5:49 remaining in the game to make it 2-0.
The Chiefs finally showed some spunk late. With 3:19 remaining, the Chiefs forced a scrum in front of the Prince George net. Jaret Anderson-Dolan got the puck to Keanu Yamamoto, who fired it in to make it 2-1.
“A.D. definitely got a stick on it. I saw it on the line and I pushed it in,” Yamamoto said.
The Chiefs got another chance in the waning seconds. Yamamoto got another shot and the puck came loose, but the Cougars punched the puck out to eliminate the threat.
“We were definitely pushing at the end,” Yamamoto said. “But we couldn’t come up with it.”
Despite the loss, the players will enjoy a few days away from the ice. The Chiefs next play in Seattle and return home the next night to face the same Thunderbirds.
“Hopefully, we’ll get some guys back so we won’t be so short-handed,” Yamamoto said.
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