In the ongoing debate whether a team comes back from a long layoff rested or rusted, the Spokane Chiefs will fall into the rusted category.
After taking two weeks off due to COVID cases on the roster, the Chiefs were outshot 41-20 in a 5-3 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds Friday at the Arena. It was Spokane’s fourth straight loss to the Thunderbirds this season.
Conner Roulette scored twice for Seattle and Jordan Gustafson had three assists in the win.
The Chiefs were playing keep -up the entire first period and ran out of gas in the third.
“First period we were not good. It obviously looked like we hadn’t played in two weeks,” head coach Adam Maglio said. “(Goaltender Mason) Beaupit kept us in it and we got back on track in the second. Special teams really played a big part in the game throughout. Special teams need to be better.”
The Chiefs gave Seattle six power plays, including three in the first period. That didn’t allow Spokane to find much rhythm. The Chiefs added a 5-minute major to their trouble at the end of the second and into the third after defenseman Timafey Kovgoreniya was ejected for a hit to the head penalty.
On the flip side, Spokane only had two power -play opportunities.
To make matters worse, the Chiefs’ Raegan Wiles left the game in the second period . Combined with Kovgoreniya’s ejection, Spokane had just four defensemen for the entire third period.
Seattle came out quickly in the first period, scoring 15 seconds into the game when Roulette scored from the slot. It was the only goal Seattle scored in the period. Beaupit kept the Chiefs in it, facing 19 shots in the first 20 minutes alone. Spokane could muster only three shots on Seattle goaltender Scott Ratzlaff in exchange.
Things took a turn for the better for Spokane in the second when the Chiefs pulled ahead 3-1 . Carter Streek, acquired last week from the Saskatoon Blades, scored the first goal of his WHL career to tie the game at 3:54 of the second. The Chiefs dumped the puck behind Ratzlaff, and it bounced hard off the end boards and out front for Streek to snipe one over the goalie’s shoulder.
Luke Toporowski scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season at 8:09 in an almost identical way. The puck again bounced off the end boards on a dump -in and right to Toporowksi in front of the net.
Just 15 seconds later Braden Plaschewsky, acquired earlier this season, scored his first career goal from the top of the crease to give Spokane a 3-1 lead.
Seattle’s Jared Davidson sniped one past Beaupit off a faceoff at 17:41 to make it 3-2.
The magic didn’t hold for Spokane. Seattle scored three times in the third period.
Sam Popowich tipped one past Beaupit at 6:47 and Roulette got his second of the game on a power play at 13:03. Seattle added an empty -netter from Luas Ciona with 8 seconds left in the game.
The Chiefs, decimated by injuries in the past month, got 20-year-old Bear Hughes back from a broken rib. Hughes started skating right before the team’s COVID outbreak and still needs to ease back into things.
“I was excited to come back, but I felt slow tonight and a step behind,” Hughes said. “I wasn’t mentally in the game. I don’t know if that was just me coming back or if I just wasn’t ready. Tonight I was a little anxious and I just need to let my instincts play.”
Hughes centered the team’s second line and finished minus-3 and had two penalty minutes.
The Chiefs hit the road and play in Everett Saturday night before coming home Wednesday to take on Kelowna.
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