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Spokane Chiefs

Spokane Chiefs drop third straight at home, Vancouver Giants win 4-3

The Spokane Chiefs and Vancouver Giants scrum in the Giants' goal crease at the Spokane Arena on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. The Giants won 4-3.  (Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs)

Mazden Leslie scored a short-handed goal in the third period for a three-goal cushion and, despite a late comeback attempt, the Vancouver Giants beat the Spokane Chiefs 4-3 in a Western Hockey League game at the Spokane Arena on Sunday.

“We didn’t play that well tonight for 60 minutes again,” Chiefs coach Ryan Smith said. “Spurts were really good but at the end of the day they were the better team for 60 minutes.”

“It’s really frustrating honestly,” Chiefs center Berkly Catton said. “We played so well at the end. But you know, if we were up, we wouldn’t need to do that as much. So, I think just stronger starts. I even thought we played well most of the game, it’s just little mistakes are costing these games that are really important to us.”

Leslie’s goal gave the Giants (11-15-2-0) a 4-1 lead with 10:05 left. For the second night in a row, the Chiefs clawed back to make it a one-goal game late, with Catton scoring a shorty and Ty Cheveldayoff converting with the goalie pulled.

But they could not find the equalizer and as a result, the Chiefs have lost three straight – all at home.

“A week ago, we’d won a couple games in a row and felt pretty good. Almost, you know, king of the castle,” Smith said. “And then you lose three in a row at home. All pretty close games, but they’re still losses. It’s a result -driven business and you lose three, you don’t get points for being close in sport and the message is ‘back to work,’ and we gotta end this losing streak on Friday in Portland.”

The Giants scored an apparent goal midway through the first period when Chiefs goalie Dawson Cowan came out of his crease to play the puck but mishandled it, but Jakob Oreskovic was called for goaltender interference and the Chiefs were awarded a power play instead.

The best opportunity came from the Giants as Samuel Honzek, the 2023 first -round pick of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, came in on a breakaway only to be thwarted by Cowan’s left pad.

Vancouver did score playing four-on-four later in the period as Logan Hammett’s shot from the high slot came on the backside of a screen and sailed past Cowan short side for his third of the season.

The Giants added to the lead 81/2 minutes into the second. Cowan made several stops down low on a Vancouver power play, but the puck eventually made its way to Tyler Thorpe in the left-wing circle and he buried it over a sprawled Cowan for his 12th of the campaign.

The Chiefs (10-13-2-0) answered on the next shift. Catton won a puck along the left boards and fed Chase Bertholet alone in the high slot. Bertholet settled the puck and send a wrister past Vancouver goalie Brett Mirwald for his fifth of the season.

A couple of minutes later, Vancouver was called for an instigator penalty with a bench minor and Spokane received a two-minute five-on-three power play but could not find the net.

“I think it’s our second one of the year,” Catton said. “So just got to go and practice and maybe watch some video of NHL guys doing it and kind of go from there. There really wasn’t much open – they played it pretty well, honestly. But yeah, it’s really tough not to score on a 2-minute five-on-three.”

“It was a momentum killer,” Smith said. “(Vancouver) took the momentum from that. We didn’t generate anything… our power play wasn’t very good tonight.”

It came back to haunt the Chiefs. With just under five minutes left in the frame the Giants had a three-on-one and Colton Langkow converted a touch pass from Adam Titlbach to make it 3-1.It stayed that way until midway through the third. With the Chiefs on a power play, a turnover in the defensive end became a point-blank shot for Leslie. Cowan made the first save but couldn’t cover it and Leslie poked in the loose puck for a three-goal lead.

“We got a lot of games ahead of us here,” Catton said. “We’ve just got to recuperate and get back to what we do best which is our forecheck and playing hard. Just kind of reset.”

Quiet, please: The Chiefs hosted their second annual Neurodiversity Awareness Night at the Arena for those with sensory sensitivities. The music and public address announcements were played at a lower volume, the lights in the lower bowl remained on all game and they refrained from playing the goal horn or using flashing lights or fog.