Suddenly, the Spokane Chiefs’ Western Hockey League season is one-sixth of the way through, and the Chiefs are still looking for their first win.
Friday night it was the Seattle Thunderbirds handing Spokane its defeat – this time a 5-0 drubbing in the Chiefs’ home opener.
Conner Roulette scored twice and added an assist, while Keltie Jeri-Leon had two goals in the win for Seattle. Jeri-Leon has scored against Spokane four times in two games this month.
Thomas Milic stopped all 34 shots Spokane sent his way. Campbell Arnold made 25 saves for Spokane.
Seattle applied the pressure from the opening faceoff. The Thunderbirds controlled the puck in Spokane’s end without much resistance for the game’s first 8 minutes, which resulted in Jared Davidson scoring his first of the season at 7:12.
“The first period, our puck management was not great. We didn’t get pucks behind them and it resulted in odd man (rushes),” Spokane head coach Adam Maglio said. “I thought we cleaned it up as we moved along. We need to be better through 60. We need to be more consistent.”
A Spokane power play shortly after Davidson’s goal finally allowed the Chiefs to get some zone time and some shots on Milic. But Roulette soon scored his first of the night from the left faceoff dot at 18:31 to give Seattle a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Roulette scored his second of the night 7:51 into the second to give Seattle a three-goal cushion.
Spokane still struggled to control the play.
Erik Atchison had a big opportunity to get Spokane on the board with less than 2 minutes to play in the period. Milic stopped him on a breakaway.
It was more of the same in the third period. Jeri-Leon scored at 4:48 to make it 4-0, and Adam Beckman was stopped on a breakaway that could have given Spokane some life.
Jeri-Leon scored his second on the power play at 15:50.
The Chiefs’ young players are quickly learning what it takes to succeed in the WHL, and what happens when they don’t play the right way.
“It’s a very good league and there’s a certain way you have to play, and we’re learning that,” Maglio said.
Spokane was again without Jack Finley, who is nursing an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. Finley’s absence is contributing in part to Spokane’s lineup shuffles through the first four games.
Rookie Copeland Fricker played on the top line Friday alongside Beckman and Eli Zummack.
The Chiefs also went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the third time this season.
“It’s also a little bit of what we want in the lineup against certain teams,” Maglio said.
The Chiefs have a quick turnaround, as they face the Tri-City Americans Saturday in Kennewick.
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