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Spokane Chiefs have little room for error in must-win game at Vancouver

UPDATED: Thu., April 25, 2019, 6:44 p.m.

Vancouver Giants forward Tristen Nielsen (8) falls as Spokane Chiefs forward Bobby Russell pursues the puck during the first period of Wednesday’s Western Hockey League playoff game  at the  Arena. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Vancouver Giants forward Tristen Nielsen (8) falls as Spokane Chiefs forward Bobby Russell pursues the puck during the first period of Wednesday’s Western Hockey League playoff game at the Arena. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Kevin Dudley For The Spokesman-Review

It’s do-or-die time for the Spokane Chiefs.

Down 3-1 heading into Game 5 Friday against the Vancouver Giants in Langley, British Columbia, the Chiefs must win three straight to advance to the Chynoweth Cup Finals.

It’s a tall task against the Western Conference’s top seed. If the Chiefs are looking for any extra motivation, they might remember when they forced a Game 7 in the first round last year after falling behind Portland 3-1, although the Chiefs ultimately lost in Game 7.

The Chiefs know they have little room for error.

“When we talk about games that can put your season away, you can’t get any more desperate than that,” head coach Dan Lambert said after Wednesday’s loss in Game 4.

To stop Vancouver, the Chiefs will have to contain Dawson Holt and Jared Dmytriw, among others. Holt, who had the overtime winner in Game 4, has three goals and two assists in the series. Dmytriw has three goals and one assist. Defenseman Bowen Byram has added two goals and an assist.

The Chiefs have plenty of offensive firepower on their side, but some of their top players haven’t found the score sheet enough.

Eli Zummack has a goal and three assists in the series, and Adam Beckman has three goals to pace Spokane.

The Chiefs, though, need more from their top guns. Ty Smith hasn’t recorded a point all series, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan has one goal and one assist through four games.

The Chiefs also haven’t scored on the power play in the series. They’ve only had six opportunities, but after having the league’s top power play unit during the regular season, not converting with the man advantage turns into a major disadvantage.

Spokane can’t win all three games Friday, but it can start the process with a win on the road. The Chiefs lost the first two games on the road against Vancouver after going undefeated as the visiting team in the first two rounds.

The Chiefs prevailed in overtime at home in Game 3 and looked like they were on their way to another win in Game 4 Wednesday, but three Vancouver goals in the third period and another one in overtime did them in.

The Chiefs emphasized the need to play a full 60 minutes after Wednesday’s loss. They also squandered a 2-0 third-period lead in Game 2.

“We have to realize that we dominated (Game 4) for 52 or 53 minutes,” Beckman said. “If we can continue to do that for 60 minutes, hopefully it’ll turn in our favor.”

The Chiefs have a steady goaltender in Bailey Brkin, although Brkin’s reaction after giving up the overtime goal on Wednesday showed a goalie who knows how fine a line it is between winning and losing against Vancouver. Brkin waited at the Chiefs’ bench for an extended period of time before leaving the ice and heading back to the dressing room.

Brkin’s save percentage this postseason is holding at .923. He’s leading the league in saves made during the postseason with 429.

At the other end, David Tendeck has cemented his spot in net after splitting time with Trent Miner earlier in the postseason. Tendeck has a .929 save percentage in the series and a 2.25 goals-against average.

Teams are mum on injuries in the playoffs, so it remains to be seen if Filip Kral plays. The defenseman was scratched in Game 4 after missing some time in Game 3 after a crushing hit. Luc Smith, injured in Game 1 and on the bench as an extra assistant coach in Game 4, has missed most of the series.

The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

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