The Spokane Chiefs boast probably the most veteran team they’ve had in a few years and players who’ve spent time with NHL clubs.
But lately, those veterans haven’t played like veterans – struggling against the competition in the Western Hockey League.
That was the case Saturday at the Arena, as the Chiefs provided 7,917 fans a sloppy performance in a 5-3 loss to the Tri-City Americans.
The Chiefs allowed two goals on three Tri-City power-play opportunities and couldn’t cash in on a nearly 2-minute, 5-on-3 power play of their own in the second period.
“The second period we decided we were going to be too cute,” Chiefs head coach Dan Lambert said. “We were too cute through the neutral zone and (Tri-City) clogged things up and we turned it over, nonstop. When you do that you’re asking for trouble. That’s what made us extend shifts, that’s what made us take penalties.”
Lambert said there are a few veterans who haven’t played well and to the level that is expected. He didn’t pinpoint any particular reason, but the message is clear: Things need to improve.
“It’s hockey. They should be enjoying life and playing to the best of their ability,” Lambert said.”
The Chiefs took a 2-0 lead into the second period after early goals from Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Luke Toporowski. Anderson-Dolan’s goal was his first since returning from the NHL.
But Tri-City’s Parker AuCoin scored the Americans’ first power-play goal when he redirected a Nolan Yaremko shot 1:46 into the second period.
Tri-City’s Riley Bruce went to the box for hooking and 2 seconds later, Mitchell Brown took an interference penalty to give the Chiefs a 5-on-3 power play for 1:58.
Given the chance to provide some insurance, the Chiefs were careless with the puck and unable to generate scoring chances.
“It was hard to watch. We kept shooting it down the ice ourselves,” Lambert said. “We kept giving them the puck so they could shoot it down the ice. We weren’t sharp.”
Anderson-Dolan’s view wasn’t any prettier.
“I honestly think it kind of sucked some air out of us,” he said.
Tri-City’s Brett Clayton tied the score 4:40 into the third period after Spokane defenseman Egor Arbuzov turned over the puck in his end.
The Chiefs regained the lead when Anderson-Dolan scored his second of the night on the power play after the puck squirted out from the front of the net. It looked like the Chiefs were in control, but another Tri-City power-play goal – this one by Sasha Mutala at 9:59 – tied the score again.
Isaac Johnson provided the dagger when he was left wide open in the slot and put the winner past Spokane goaltender Bailey Brkin at 15:32 of the third. A Yaremko empty-netter sealed the win for Tri-City.
“We have to lead by example,” Anderson-Dolan said. “We’re the older guys that the young guys look at. In that second period, we turned over way too many pucks. That starts with myself and that starts with our top line and the old guys. When the young guys see that, they’ll follow what we do so we have to do a better job.”
The Chiefs get a couple of days to rest before the Seattle Thunderbirds come to the Arena on Tuesday for another U.S. Division matchup.
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