Spokane got a glimpse of its potential goaltending future against the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Rookie goaltender Donovan Buskey, who made his first Western Hockey League start on Wednesday, was “outstanding,” according to Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur, despite the Chiefs losing to Seattle 4-2 at the Arena.
“He saw a lot of rubber,” Nachbaur said of Buskey, who made 32 saves against the Thunderbirds. “He had a lot of tough saves to make. And he did.
“For a young guy, I thought he was pretty composed.”
Buskey was active for most of the game because of the Chiefs’ failure to possess the puck. Spokane was outshot by Seattle 36-17 and the Chiefs only managed eight shots combined in the final two periods.
“We didn’t create a lot of offense because we spent a lot of time (in our end),” Nachbaur said. “I don’t think we skated. I don’t think we competed hard enough.”
Things started to fall apart in the third period for the Chiefs.
Zack Andrusiak scored after the puck deflect off Buskey’s leg pad and lingered in the crease, allowing the rookie forward to tap in the puck for his sixth goal of the season and to put the Thunderbirds up 2-1.
Ryan Gropp scored his second goal of the game on a redirection with 16:45 remaining in the third period.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan briefly cut the Thunderbirds’ lead to one after driving home a wrist shot with 14:31 remaining, but Austin Strand scored for Seattle after Hudson Elynuik turned the puck over on a lazy pass and presented the defenseman an open lane to score with 10:58 left.
The loss extends Spokane’s losing streak to seven games. The Chiefs have also lost six home games in a row, with Spokane’s last win at the Arena coming on Feb. 11 against Tri-City.
Buskey, a Vancouver, British Columbia native, has been a highly-anticipated goaltender prospect since being selected in the third round of the 2015 WHL bantam draft. He was called up as an additional player on Feb. 24 after Dawson Weatherill was placed on the injury report with an upper-body injury.
“It’s been great,” Buskey said. “The guys have been great to me. I’ve never felt like an outsider or anything. For all of the season, I’ve been following their stats. Following how the games are going. So it’s pretty surreal to be a part of it. … When I got the call, it was pretty amazing.”
Buskey’s midget team, the Vancouver Northwest Giants, are currently in the second round of the British Columbia Major Midget League playoffs. Even though it’s tough be separated from the team he’d been with all season, he doesn’t hold any regrets from being called up.
“There’d be no place I’d rather be than here,” Buskey said. “I can’t complain.”
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