The Spokane Chiefs found out the hard way how potent an odd-man rush can be this weekend.
After giving up three goals in the third period in a 5-1 loss to Tri-City on Saturday, the Kelowna Rockets poured on five goals in the first period to jump out to a 5-0 lead and coast to 9-5 win on Sunday at the Arena.
“We made huge mistakes in the first period against a very, very good hockey team,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said. “Too many turnovers put us in odd-man situations, which we weren’t able to handle it. And they executed really well tonight.”
It was a nasty situation for the Chiefs, unprepared to handle a team that had scored five or more goals in eight of their last 10 games. The Chiefs were tied with the Rockets in shots on goal, 9-9, after the opening period, but things got away from them in a hurry.
“We had some chances in the first period, but we couldn’t solve their goalie,” Nachbaur said. “Once they got the ball rolling, our guys were just scrambling.”
Reid Gardiner, who had two goals and two assists, kick-started the scoring barrage with a goal on an odd-man rush 1:37 into the game. Dillon Dube, Carson Twarynski, Rodney Southam and Devante Stephans all followed, putting Spokane down early.
It’s easy to blame the goaltenders and defenseman for giving up a high number of goals, but Nachbaur says its not that simple.
“We have a very young ‘D,’ ” Nachbaur said. “And we’ve preached this all year: Our forwards can’t leave them back there to defend by themselves. Especially against a quality rush team. This is one of the best (rush) teams. … That’s a good team and we made too many mistakes, and critical errors where we left our Ds back to defend and left our goalies to the wolves.”
Spokane’s power play was effective, scoring three goals in six chances, potentially a silver lining for the Chiefs tonight.
“We got down so much it was about pride,” Nachbaur said. “Our game was too sloppy, and it made the guys feel good, and I think there’s some positives there, but if we want to win games, we can’t give up nine goals.”
Getting thumped in the first period meant more than just losing to Kelowna.
The Chiefs failed to capitalize on two home games where Portland wasn’t in action. The Winterhawks lead the Chiefs by nine points for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Chiefs defenseman Ty Smith said. “We’re not out of it, but these were valuable points lost.”
Sunday’s loss was also a game of firsts in a few ways.
The Chiefs lost to the Rockets for the first time this season, having beaten Kelowna in three previous matchups.
It was also the first ever Western Hockey League action for goaltender Donovan Buskey, who was called up for this weekend as affiliate player. The 17-year-old netminder was inserted for Jayden Sittler with eight minutes remaining in the first period, but made only three saves on six shots on goal. Sittler returned in the second period.
Buskey, a prospect who is playing with the Vancouver Northwest Giants, was added to the roster this weekend as an affiliate player. He was called up due to an undisclosed injury to Chiefs goaltender Dawson Weatherill, who received most the recent starts in net for Spokane.
Faith leaves with injury
Spokane defenseman Jeff Faith left in the first period and had his left wrist looked at by the trainer on the bench before leaving for the dressing room. The 19-year-old Wilcox, Saskatchewan, native has seven points in 56 games this season.
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