After winning three straight on the road, the Chiefs had laid an egg in their home opener as they managed just 17 shots and one goal in a 2-1 loss to Kootenay last Saturday. Coming out of the first two weeks 3-1 on the season, Spokane was in first place in the U.S. Division and would head into week 3 with their first match-ups within the division when the Chiefs would host Everett and Portland this past week. Spokane would then head to Portland to start the first of a back to back meeting with the Winterhawks. First up were the defending division champion Silvertips, who were on game 3 of a season long 9 game road trip. Everett had split their first two meetings in Kelowna and Tri City and were 2 points back of the Chiefs for the top spot in the division. Spokane was still without their leading scorer from last year, Kailer Yamamoto, who was making his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers on the same night the Chiefs faced Everett.
Wednesday's night meeting was the first of 10 between the Chiefs and Silvertips this year. Last year the two teams split an 8 game series, going 2-2 on their home ice. Spokane looked determined to put the Tips away early as Ethan McIndoe scored just 2:32 into the game to make it 1-0 Chiefs. Jeff Faith then picked up a loose puck and scored 1:18 seconds later to give Spokane a 2-0 lead after one. As quickly as Spokane built the lead though, it disappeared in the second period. Everett would score two power play goals from Connor Dewar at 4:02 and 19:10 of the stanza to even the game at two after the second. Spokane gave up 17 shots to the Silvertips in the middle period, so the Chiefs had to get better at limiting Everett chances in the third.
The final period didn't start well for the Chiefs as Dewar completed the natural hat trick with his third of the night just 54 seconds into the period to give Everett their first lead at 3-2. Spokane would respond quickly though as Jeff Faith poked the puck to an open Taylor Ross and Ross knocked home his second of the season at 2:53 to square the game at 3. The Chiefs then re-took the lead on Tyson Helgesen's first of the year at 3:59 to give Spokane a 4-3 advantage. Back would come the Silvertips as Riley Sutter scored at 5:23, and once again the game was tied at 4-4. The Chiefs would control the third offensively as they out shot the Silvertips 13-6 in the period, and the offensive pressure finally paid off in the final seconds for Spokane. Hudson Elynuik took the puck off the right wall and snapped a wrist shot towards the net in the final seconds that found its' way in with 3.5 seconds left to give the Chiefs a dramatic 5-4 victory. The Chiefs ended up with 34 shots on goal, 25 of those over the final 2 periods. Spokane was just 2 for 4 on the penalty kill though, so the team knows it will need to improve there as they move forward.
Wednesday's game also marked the final one for defenseman Jake Toporowski, as he announced his retirement prior to the game. Toporowski, who started the game beside his brother Luke, is returning to school to get his teaching degree. Topper played 100 games in a Spokane uniform and his spot on the roster will be taken by import defenseman Filip Kral, who will join the team when they travel to Portland. The Chiefs and the Winterhawks would hook up in the first of 3 straight meetings Friday night at the Spokane Arena. Last season, Portland won 5 of 8 against the Chiefs, including winning 3 of 4 in Spokane, so the Chiefs were hoping to turn that around in game one of the season series.
Spokane welcomed Jake McGrew to the lineup for the first time after he missed all of last season with a knee injury. In his very first shift, he showed why San Jose took him in the 6th round of the draft as he scored on his own rebound net front just 1:17 into the game to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. As quick as Spokane took the lead, Portland came right back and scored as Ty Kolle split through the Chiefs defense and scored just over a minute later to tie the game at one. The two teams headed to the second even at 1-1, but Spokane had to feel frustrated after failing on three power play chances in the period. The second period would end up deciding how this game would go...and unfortunately, it didn't go in Spokane's favor.
Kolle's fellow fourth liner Bronson Sharp fired home his first of the year at 2:43 of the period to give Portland the lead for good at 2-1. The Hawks would get two goals 53 seconds apart late in the period to take control of the game at 4-1 at the end of two periods. Spokane would out shoot Portland 14-10 in the third but Winterhawks goalie Cole Kehler would turn away all of them, and 30 on the night to keep the Chiefs at bay. Portland would tack on two more goals in third to run away to a convincing 6-1 victory and with a win the following night in Seattle, the Hawks would pull into a first place tie with the Chiefs at the top of the U.S. Division. This would set up a first place showdown Sunday afternoon at the Rose Garden in Portland, as the Spokane hoped to re-group and play a lottt better defensively in the second meeting of the weekend.
Sunday's game would mark Donovan Buskey's debut in goal for the Chiefs, but his first appearance of the year did not start well. Portland would score two goals in the first 6:04 of the game to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Spokane would bounce back though, as Riley Woods took a Jaret Anderson-Dolan pass off a steal in the neutral zone and score his team leading 4th of the season midway through the first to cut the margin to 2-1 after one. For the second straight game though, the second period would prove to be the decisive one...and not in the Chiefs favor. Portland scored three goals in 4:36 midway through to take a 5-1 lead and knock Buskey out of the game. Dawson Weatherill came on in relief, but the Hawks would score a short handed goal during a 5 minute Chiefs power play to cap the 4 goal stanza and take a 6-1 lead after two. The two teams would trade goals in the third as Eli Zummack would score his second of the year on a Jake McGrew assist, his first as a Chief, as Portland would get their second straight win over Spokane 7-2.
The loss was the Chiefs first back to back defeats of the year, and with their win, Portland passed Spokane into first place in the U.S. Division with 10 points to the Chiefs 8. Spokane was out shot 43-24 in the game, including 18-6 in the third. The Chiefs power play is floundering right now, going 0-6 on the night and is now 2-34 on the season. Spokane has been outscored 13-3 in the two losses to Portland and have looked out matched in both games. Things won't get any easier for the Chiefs either, as they get the Winterhawks again on Tuesday night in Portland, before welcoming Western Conference leading Victoria and rival Tri City at home over the weekend. Spokane will have to get back to the level they showed the opening weekend of the season if they hope to have a successful week. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA for the games Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. The pre-game shows start at 6:30pm with the puck drops at 7:05pm. We hope to see you at the rink!