The Spokane Chiefs were 5 minutes – and one goal – from playing for a conference title last season. And if you paid any attention to the series, you know it was heart-stoppingly close the entire way. So when the Tri-City Americans won Game 7, it left something to be desired for the veteran Chiefs, who are back for another Western Hockey League season in Spokane. Beginning Saturday, when the Chiefs open their regular-season schedule in Kennewick against the Americans, 72 games and about six months separate Spokane from the possibility of another exciting postseason story – perhaps one that ends with them getting the best of their storied rivals. “It’s going to be a fun year,” Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Moulton said. “I think the most important thing is we have to have veteran players step up and take on leadership role. That’ll be a big key to our success.” The Chiefs are carrying 27 on their roster – three goalies, nine defensemen and 15 forwards, with 19 veterans and eight rookies. By age, the Chiefs have nine 17-year-olds, six 18s, eight 19s and four overage players. They’ll have to get down to maximum of 25 players by Oct. 10, including just three 20-year-old overage players – but that gives the coaching staff time to experiment with line combinations and defensive pairings before they make final cuts. “It’s a good problem for us to have,” Moulton said. “It means that everyone is giving us a reason to consider keeping them here.” One of the more interesting decisions general manager Tim Speltz, head coach Don Nachbaur and his staff will have to make is which two goalies will mind the Spokane net this season. It’s not a goalie controversy so much as a goalie question mark. The Chiefs are still carrying three – 19-year-olds Eric Williams and Mac Engel, who split time during the regular season last year, and 17-year-old rookie Garret Hughson. Williams, who was picked up in a trade last December, was 8-6-3-0 in 18 regular-season games last season but got hot in the playoffs and nearly took Spokane into the Western Conference championship series – ultimately losing in the semis in seven games to the Ams. He finished the playoffs with the third-best goals-against average in the WHL at 2.22. But in 86 career regular-season appearances, Williams has just 33 wins. Carrrying two 19-year-old goalies, knowing they can’t keep two overage goalies next season, isn’t a move Spokane will likely make. The other veteran – Engel – is starting his third season in net for Spokane with 86 career appearances and a 41-27-3-4 record. Last season Engel finished 28-19-1-3. His 28 wins ranked 10th in the league. Hughson played for Medicine Hat of the Alberta Midget Hockey League (AMHL) last year. For more on this article written by Jess Brown for the Spokesman Review Click Here.