It’s the little things that always make the difference.
Before the start of the season, first-year Spokane Chiefs coach Dan Lambert said it was the basics – the simplest of movements, such as passing and skating – that could make or break a team at the junior level.
Following Spokane’s fourth straight loss on Saturday night when the Chiefs fell 3-2 in a shootout against the Tri-City Americans, Lambert sang the same song.
“I tell our guys all the time, ‘If you can’t pass the puck, you can’t play the game.’ At the end of the day it’s a very simple concept,” Lambert said.
Not simple enough for the Chiefs, who struggled to get to a running start because of a series of sloppy passes in the first period. The Chiefs consistently lost the puck to the Americans, who eventually found the net midway through the period off a shot from center Kyle Olson.
“Our turnovers were all over the place,” Lambert said. “We have to limit our turnovers.”
Roughly 30 seconds into the Chiefs’ first player advantage in the first period, Tri-City found an open lane.
Valimaki stole the puck and broke away for a run down the left side. The defenseman collapsed on Weatherill and flipped the puck between his legs for a short-handed goal, moving Tri-City’s lead to 2-0.
The Chiefs were quick to respond, and found the net near the end of the power play.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan took a pass from center Eli Zummack and found a good look behind goalkeeper Patrick Dea to narrow Tri-City’s lead to 2-1. It was his sixth goal of the season.
The Chiefs started slowly in the third but found some momentum following their first shot at the net more than five minutes into the period.
With 9:15 left, Spokane wingman Zach Fischer found defenseman Ty Smith, who took a shot. The puck was blocked by Dea, and Chiefs rookie center Cedric Chenier took the rebound off his skate and sent it into the goal to tie the score at 2.
Chenier was outside the goal crease when he kicked the puck in, a rule that was changed by the Western Hockey League last year.
It was Chenier’s first goal in the WHL.
“It was lucky one,” said Chenier, who was relieved to finally get a score after playing eight games this season. “It was awesome to get it off my back finally, just to get it over with.”
Spokane couldn’t get the win in overtime, despite going on a power play just 14 seconds after the clock started.
In the shootout, the teams stayed tied with two scores apiece. Centerman Carson Focht finally sealed the victory for Tri-City with a shot that slipped past Weatherill.
The Chiefs announced that they acquired a conditional pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft from the Lethbridge Hurricanes for forward Taylor Ross.
The 19-year-old Ross played 15 games for the Chiefs this season, scoring two goals and two assists. He has 12 goals and 16 assists in his 116-game career in the WHL.
The Chiefs also moved rookie defenseman Tyson Feist to the Spokane Braves to get him more time on the ice. Feist played in four games this season for the Chiefs.
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