The Spokane Chiefs were playing desperate hockey for about two months as they clawed their way into the playoffs.
They were playing desperate hockey Friday at the Arena, looking to extend their season. Instead, Logan Stankoven of the Kamloops Blazers showed why he’s a top NHL prospect with a hat trick as the Blazers rolled to a 3-0 win to end Spokane’s season in a series sweep.
The Chiefs again had trouble generating offense and finding the net. Kamloops goaltender Dylan Garand had to make just 20 saves in the shutout.
Spokane goalie Cooper Michaluk, starting his second game of the series, played well but was under siege all night. Michaluk stopped 42 of 45 shots Kamloops sent his way. The rookie started in place of the injured Mason Beaupit, who didn’t dress.
Michaluk is a young rookie with limited game experience. Despite that, he’s impressed despite the results.
“He was great tonight. He came in relief the first two games and those are never easy and you don’t plan for those,” Chiefs head coach Ryan Smith said. “Game 3 he played well and we just couldn’t help him and score any goals. Tonight was the same thing. I thought he was our best player. He played hard and did everything he could but he can’t score for us.”
Stankoven started things quickly with a power-play goal at 3:12 of the first. Berkly Catton was in the box for Spokane. Penalties were a problem in the first three games of the series and continued to be a problem for Spokane in Game 4, as the Chiefs gave Kamloops seven power-play opportunities.
Stankoven’s second goal came at 18:17 of the second. He scored his third on a short breakaway at 5:59 of the third.
“Kamloops is three lines deep and their fourth line is capable,” Smith said. “They got six D and the best goalie in the country so they’re ready to win right now. They played outstanding this series. If they play like this, they have a great chance to win.”
As for the Chiefs, they ran into a team that could compete for a championship.
“You can see the level we have to go to,” Smith said. “We got beat by a better team tonight. When you can’t score, you don’t have much of a chance. I tip my hat the Blazers, they were good tonight and throughout the series.”
Kamloops outscored Spokane 23-3 in the four games and outshot the Chiefs 165-94 in the series. Kamloops never had fewer than 37 shots on net, while Spokane’s highest output was 26 shots on net in Game 3.
The loss ends the careers of Chiefs overagers Nick McCarry and Bear Hughes. Hughes, the Post Falls product, was Spokane’s captain and helped lead the team through its up-and-down season.
“The best part of this year for me was just being able to be with the guys,” Hughes said. “We had a really good group of guys. You make some pretty strong friendships.”
His head coach appreciated Hughes’ game and his leadership.
“I have a lot of respect for Bear and his 200-foot game,” Smith said. “He plays hard, he plays with an edge and he’s got some skill. He’s got a bright future. He led by example and took some young guys under his wing, and that bodes well for the Chiefs in the future.”
The Chiefs will have a busy summer and are expected to name a new general manager soon.
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