The Seattle Thunderbirds scored three goals on their first three shots of the game Friday night at the Arena.
It didn’t get any better from there for the Spokane Chiefs, as they dropped a 7-2 decision, their ninth loss in a row.
The Chiefs haven’t won since Oct. 14 and recently traded veteran defenseman Graham Sward and starting goaltender Mason Beaupit to the Winnipeg ICE for younger players and future draft picks. The Chiefs are clearly planning for the future, and there are plenty of growing pains that come with it. The early deficit is one such growing pain.
First it was Gracyn Sawchyn getting one past Spokane goaltender Cooper Michaluk 1 minute, 16 seconds into the game. Just 18 seconds later, Nico Myatovic scored off a faceoff. Kevin Korchinski scored at 4:46 to complete the onslaught.
“It’s hard to kind of stay confident when that kind of stuff happens,” Chiefs associate coach Stefan Legein said. “It’s something that’s happening to us regularly. Our second and thirds are great but when you’re losing 3- or 4-0 at the end of the first each night it’s a tough league to get wins.”
Michaluk settled in the rest of the period and into the second. The Chiefs actually matched Seattle in shots on net in the second and outshot the Thunderbirds in the third but still couldn’t chip away at Seattle’s lead. The Chiefs hit the post twice and couldn’t generate enough good scoring chances.
Despite the uptick in offense, the struggles continued on the defensive side. Seattle’s Hyde Davidson made it 4-0 at 12:25 of the second with a shot from the point.
“It’s little breakdowns and I thought they won a lot of battles on us tonight,” Legein said. “The faceoff goal, the first goal of the game. We just lost puck focus and lost the guy in the slot. They’re a good team and you can’t leave these guys open. It’s not that we’re giving up glorious chances, it’s that we’re giving good players chances and they’re able to capitalize.”
Cade Hayes got Spokane on the board at 16:35 of the second on a partial breakaway to score his third of the season. The goal could have given Spokane some life, but Jordan Gustafson made it 5-1 44 seconds later.
Jared Davidson added a goal with 54 seconds left in the second period to add to Seattle’s commanding lead. Chase Bertholet scored Spokane’s second goal on a breakaway four minutes into the third period. Kyle Crnkovic added to Seattle’s lead with a power play goal in the third period.
Legein emphasized the second and third periods as being better offensively for Spokane, despite the score.
“Our forecheck has been really good and the last couple of games we’ve really simplified our exits and our transitions through the neutral zone,” he said. “We’re able to get good zone time and get things going. It’s just that final step in finishing the chance.”
Davidson paced Seattle with a goal and an assist. Korchinski, Crnkovic and Sawchyn each had a goal and an assist.
Michaluk played the entire game in net despite giving up seven goals. Scott Ratzlaff made 31 saves for Seattle.
The Chiefs are back on the Arena ice Saturday to take on Tri-City.
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