The Spokane Chiefs opened their home schedule Saturday night against the team that ended their season in the playoffs five months ago, and for Spokane, the results were no better than they were in that elimination game.
A more experienced Kamloops Blazers team forced the Chiefs into a number of early miscues and spoiled their home opener, winning 4-2 at the Spokane Arena in front of an announced crowd of 7,572.
“Obviously we’re a bit better all around (than last season),” forward Cade Hayes said, “but we showed ourselves tonight that it takes a full 60 minutes to win games in this league.”
It was the first of five straight home games for the Chiefs (2-1-0-0), who won their first two games of the season, both in Victoria, by scores of 7-5 and 5-4.
But offensive opportunities were harder to come by against the Blazers (1-1-0-0), who have six NHL draft picks on their current roster. That doesn’t even include 19-year-old Logan Stankoven, the Blazers’ captain who scored 45 goals for them last season. He remains in training camp with the NHL’s Dallas Stars.
It hardly seemed the Blazers missed him. They scored twice in the first period: Connor Levis from the right circle on a power play, followed 11 minutes later by Matthew Seminoff’s goal in front of Chiefs goalie Mason Beaupit.
The Chiefs drew a four-minute power play later in the second period on a high-sticking call against Seminoff, but instead of capitalizing themselves it was the Blazers who scored, on a puck that was misplayed deep in the Chiefs’ zone by Beaupit and defenseman Graham Sward – Spokane’s two NHL draft selections. Caedan Bankier’s shot into an open net made it 3-0 Blazers just 3 minutes into the period.
Ethan Brandwood’s goal less than four minutes into the third period pushed Kamloops’ advantage to 4-0.
Spokane played nearly 20 minutes of game time without top-line winger Ty Cheveldayoff, who was sent off for a 10-minute misconduct midway through the first period after he was called for instigating and then participating in a fight with Kyle Masters. Spokane was already playing with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
“It’s a factor when you lose anybody, but in that situation he stuck up for himself and his teammates, and we’re all about that,” coach Ryan Smith said. “But we have other guys. We can’t just rely on one or two guys.”
They finally scored with 14:14 left in the third, when Grady Lane deflected Raegan Wiles’ shot from the point past goalie Dylan Ernst. That cut the Blazers’ lead to 4-1.
Then, with less than three minutes left, Hayes scored his first goal of the season to cut the deficit down to two. But that was all the Chiefs could muster. They finished the game with 35 shots on goal – 11 more than the Blazers – and 18 of those came in the third period.
“We were just playing desperate hockey. We were working hard, keeping it simpler, throwing pucks at the net,” Hayes said. “We just have to play desperate hockey all game.”
Smith echoed that and said the Chiefs played with energy and urgency in the third, which was encouraging.
“You wish you could bottle that up and let it go for the next game,” Smith said. “We’ve got some work to do, though. We maybe felt a little sweet on ourselves after (two wins against) Victoria, and we got a good lesson learned tonight.”
The Chiefs resume their homestand on Friday against the Edmonton Oil Kings, who last played in Spokane nearly four years ago, on Oct. 6, 2018.
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