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Spokane Chiefs decline to pick up option on head coach Hardy Sauter's contract @NHLdotcom

SPOKANE, Wash. - Hardy Sauter is out as head coach of the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs, the team announced Tuesday.

The Chiefs declined to exercise the option on Sauter's contract, ending his two-year stint as head coach.

"The decision to make a coaching change at this time was very difficult," Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz said in a statement. "Hardy is a great person and cares deeply about his players.

"At the same time, I feel strongly that we need to make a change moving forward. Hardy was a big part of our Memorial Cup championship team and we wish him all the best in the future."

Sauter joined the club as an assistant coach and helped lead the team to a Memorial Cup title in 2008. He was promoted to head coach prior to the 2008-'09 season after Bill Peters left to take a position with the Chicago Blackhawks' American Hockey League affiliate.

Sauter finished with a 90-45-6 record as head coach, but the Chiefs struggled in the post-season during his tenure. They were eliminated in the second round by the Vancouver Giants last season, and dropped their 2010 first-round series in seven games to the Portland Winter Hawks.

The team said it will begin its search for a replacement immediately.

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