Playing catch-up is no way to win a hockey game. The Spokane Chiefs know that, but that’s the situation they were in Friday night against the Portland Winterhawks at the Arena.
The Chiefs found themselves down 3-2 heading into the third period, but Portland scored goals at 6:13 and 7:34, putting the game out of reach. The final outcome was a 6-3 loss to a U.S. Division rival.
The Chiefs also hurt themselves with costly penalties, a deviation from the game plan and a goose egg in the power-play goals column.
Jake Gricius led the way for Portland with a five-point night – two goals and three assists – and Cross Hanas added two goals and an assist. Luke Toporowski and Filip Kral each had a goal and an assist for Spokane.
Portland’s Joel Hofer stopped 32 of 35 shots he faced, while Spokane’s Campbell Arnold turned away 27 of 33.
“When things didn’t go well for us, we resorted to doing our own thing,” Spokane head coach Manny Viveiros said. “We weren’t sticking with our game plan. That’s the sign of our group right now. We have to believe what works best and we made mistakes that have cost us games before.”
Those mistakes included four penalties, one of which was a bench minor for too many men on the ice. Another was an interference penalty away from the play. Both were avoidable penalties.
Ty Smith also took a costly cross-checking penalty late in the first period that yielded a Johnny Ludvig power-play goal at 16:18. Ludvig’s goal broke a 1-all tie after Hanas opened the scoring for Portland and Kral tied it for Spokane.
Smith’s penalty was his third in two games. He took two penalties in Spokane’s win over the Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday and didn’t record points in either game. Smith and other veterans struggled against a fast, physical Portland squad that didn’t give up a ton of room.
“It starts with me, we have to be better,” Smith said. “We have to step up in a big way. Obviously, we have a couple guys injured, but everybody has to step up.”
Hanas scored his second of the game at 12:53 of the second to give Portland a 3-1 lead. Cordel Larson got Spokane back within one when he poked one past Hofer at 14:40.
After Larson’s goal, the Chiefs had some momentum and carried play for much of the second period. But Portland turned the tables in the third.
The Winterhawks came out aggressively in the third and it paid off when Seth Jarvis was awarded a penalty shot after being hooked on a breakaway. Jarvis scored on the ensuring penalty shot, giving Portland a two-goal cushion.
“We have to give them credit, but we need to be ready to play those kinds of teams,” Smith said. “They play quick and play as a five-man unit out there and support each other. We just have to outwork teams like that.”
Gricius extended the lead when he put a rebound past Arnold in the third. Toporowski cut into Portland’s lead with a goal at 8:32, but Gricius scored his second at 15:21 to secure the win.
The Winterhawks controlled play for nearly the entire night and were the faster team.
“They skate right through you, or they skate around you,” Viveiros said.
The Chiefs, who boasted the league’s second-best power play unit heading into the game, went scoreless on three opportunities, including two power plays in the game’s first 10 minutes.
Portland, the only team better than Spokane on the power play, went 1 for 4.
The Chiefs have little time to think about the loss. They host the Prince Albert Raiders on Saturday at the Arena.
Arnold has started seven consecutive games in net, and with Saturday’s game being the second of back-to-back games, Viveiros could opt to play newly acquired goaltender Brett Balas. Viveiros said he’ll make that decision on Saturday.
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