Thunderbirds, host of NHL prospects outmatch Chiefs in lopsided 7-2 win
Jan. 27, 2023 Updated Fri., Jan. 27, 2023 at 10:13 p.m.
The gulf between the Spokane Chiefs and Seattle Thunderbirds when it comes to skill and firepower was clear Friday night at the Arena.
The T-Birds, who dressed six NHL draft picks out of nine players on the roster, were in control the entire game and cruised to a 7-2 win. Seattle’s among the best teams in the Canadian Hockey League and a favorite for the Western Hockey League championship. It was evident, as the T-Birds controlled the pace from the start to finish.
Jared Davidson had two goals and an assist to lead Seattle. Lucas Ciona had a goal and three assists and Kyle Crnkovic added a goal and an assist.
Chase Bertholet scored both of Spokane’s goals.
“(Seattle is) a good, solid team. They play fast and hard and really capitalize on the mistakes you make,” Spokane head coach Ryan Smith said. “We made a few early and a few later in the game and they don’t let you off the hook. You need to be next to perfect against them.”
It wasn’t easy for Spokane to play perfect against a team that has a potent mix of skill, speed and size. Only four players on Seattle’s roster are shorter than 6 feet, and seven are 6-3 or taller.
Seattle scored on its first shot on net at 4 minutes, 20 seconds of the first when Crnkovic sniped one over the shoulder of Spokane goaltender Cooper Michaluk. Davidson score his first at 10:02.
The Chiefs got one back when Bertholet scored his first of the game at 15:19 on the power play. But Gracyn Sawchyn answered for Seattle 61 seconds later to give Seattle a 3-1 lead that it took to intermission.
The second period was much like the first, with Seattle controlling play and hardly letting Spokane get any chances. Nolan Allen made it 4-1 when his shot pinballed through traffic and past Michaluk.
Bertholet scored his second of the game and 22nd of the season at 14:51 to get Spokane back within two. But Spokane again allowed Seattle to answer quickly, with Davidson’s second goal of the night coming 68 seconds later to give Seattle a 5-2 lead.
Things didn’t get better in the third. Ciona scored 6 seconds into the period after easily skating around Spokane defenseman Saige Weinstein and sliding one past Michaluk. Ashton McNelly scored his first of the season to make it 7-2 at 2:26 of the third.
Despite the lopsided score, Smith didn’t feel his team ever lacked effort, as has been the case in some games this season.
“Our effort was there and our attitude was pretty good,” he said. “There are times where we just don’t handle the puck well when there’s pressure on us and we turn it over. We have to get stronger and faster and to play these teams you have to be ready from the drop of the puck to the end, every shift.”
Friday’s loss was the first of three games in three nights for Spokane. The Chiefs will hop on a bus and head to Kennewick for a matchup with the Tri-City Americans tonight before heading to Portland Sunday.
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