The Spokane Chiefs climbed out of a hole to get into the playoffs. Now they need to climb out of an even bigger hole to survive in the playoffs.
The Chiefs enter Friday night’s game at home trailing the Kamloops Blazes 3-0 in the best-of-seven first-round Western Hockey League playoff series, and the losses haven’t been pretty. The Chiefs have been outscored 20-3 in the three games, including a 9-0 decision in the opener.
The list of things gone wrong is long. There’s the former teammate scorching Spokane, the starting goaltender getting injured, Spokane’s lack of scoring, and too much time spent in the penalty box.
Former Chief and fan favorite Luke Toporowski is responsible for five of Kamloops’ 20 goals. Toporowski, traded by Spokane to Kamloops for Nick McCarry in January, has eight points in the three games. His five playoff goals lead the league, and right behind him with four goals is Logan Stankoven, who has 10 playoff points, which also leads the league.
Spokane goaltender Mason Beaupit was injured in the second game and didn’t appear in the third. In his place is rookie Cooper Michaluk, who appeared in just five regular-season games as a midseason call-up. Michaluk appears to be the choice ahead of regular-season backup and Kamloops native Manny Panghli. Combined, Beaupit and Michaluk have a paltry .833 save percentage.
With just three goals in the series, nobody is producing. Only Erik Atchison and Chase Bertholet have more than one point, and they each have two. Atchison, McCarry and defenseman Graham Sward are Spokane’s only goal scorers.
The Chiefs have also racked up 66 penalty minutes in three games. Grady Lane was given a match penalty in the opener for attempt to injure, which came with a two-game suspension. Both Spokane and Kamloops have 19 power-play chances in the three games, but Kamloops has connected on five and Spokane on one.
The Blazers are giving Spokane chances: Kamloops has 61 penalty minutes, with Toporowski leading the way with 14.
The teams combined for 19 power-play opportunities in the second period alone in the second game. Suffice to say, things aren’t friendly on the ice.
Coming back from a 3-0 deficit isn’t unprecedented. The Chiefs did so in 1996 against the Portland Winterhawks. But if they want to have a chance to keep their season going, they’ll need to find a way to win Friday night.