I know I've dropped the phrase 'What a difference a week makes' more than once in my life. It really is true, whether it's a week, a day, a month, or a year. It is especially true when it comes to sports. One week your team can look absolutely horrible, and the next, like a championship team. For the Chiefs, the difference wasn't thatttt pronounced, but you get the idea. Coming off an 8-3 shellacking at the hands of the rival Tri City Americans in the season opener the week before, the Chiefs came back to the Spokane Arena for their home opener last Saturday hoping to even the score with the Ams. With over 8,000 fans making their way into the Arena, the team was hoping to feed off the crowd's energy and reverse the results against Tri City.
The Chiefs had made a couple of roster moves between the two matchups. First, Spokane traded overage import forward Dominic Zwerger to Everett to get to the league minimum in both 20 year olds and imports. Then the Chiefs shipped goalie Tyson Verhelst to Red Deer for goalie Dawson Weatherill. Spokane then re-assigned goalie Matt Berlin, as Weatherill will now be the back-up for 20 year old Jayden Sittler. The Chiefs also got some good news as forward Hudson Elyniuk returned to the team from camp with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. With the roster starting to take shape, the team was hoping to shut down Tri City forwards Michael Rasmussen and Vladislav Lukin, who had combined for 7 of the 8 Americans goals in the season opener the previous week.
Saturday's home opener didn't start exactly as the Chiefs had hoped, as Tri City would score the game's first goal with just 2 seconds left on their first power play chance to take a 1-0 lead. Unlike the game in Tri though, the Chiefs would answer right back, as Spokane converted their second power play of the period. Curtis Miske scored just 10 seconds into the man advantage late in the first to tie the game at one after the first period. The two teams would trade power play goals again in the second. Spokane's Kailer Yamamoto scored his second of the season just 5 seconds into the Chiefs first power play of the period to take their first lead of the year at 2-1. Tri City would counter on their only power play of the second midway through the period to tie the game at 2 after the second.
It looked like this one was going to be a nail biter to the end in the third. Spokane would re-take the lead early in the third on an even strength goal from newly elected captain Tyson Helgesen on a nifty feed from Elyniuk to give the Chiefs a 3-2 advantage at 5:25 of the period. The Chiefs penalty kill would come up big right after that, as Spokane knocked off a 5 on 3 Tri City power play for 1:23. Sittler would turn away 9 shots in the third as the Chiefs turned up the pressure offensively as the period progressed. Elyniuk would give Spokane a huge insurance goal with a great individual effort to score at 16:59 to make it 4-2 Chiefs. Elyniuk would then cap a 4 point night with an assist on Kailer Yamamoto's second goal of the night on an empty netter at 18:13 to wrap up a 5-2 victory. Despite being outshot 32-27 in the game, the Chiefs went 2-4 on the power play and turned away 2 Tri City power plays in the third to pull away from Tri City.
Indeed, the difference over the week proved to be huge for Spokane, as the Chiefs drew their record even at 1-1. Now the team will get a chance to acclimate some of the new guys on the roster and get ready for two more home games this weekend. Spokane will host defending Central Division champion Lethbridge on Friday, as Jayden Sittler gets a chance to take on his former teammates. Saturday, the Victoria Royals come to the Arena in a re-match of last season's playoff series that saw the Chiefs push the Scotty Munro winners to 6 games. Both games will be big tests for Spokane before they head out on the road for 2 games the following week. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA starting with the pre-game shows at 6:30pm and the puck drop at 7:05pm. We hope to see you at the rink!