What started out as an exciting weekend suddenly turned to a lot of disappointment for the Chiefs this last week, as the team dropped 2 of 3 games to fall 8 points back of Tri-City in the U.S. Division. Spokane losing both of their home games to Vancouver and Kelowna, two teams that the Chiefs may have to beat in the playoffs.
It's easy to say the emotional loss of defenseman Jared Cowen could be used as one of the reasons the team struggled, but the problems the Chiefs encountered on the weekend went well beyond defense. In fact, offensively the Chiefs were below average, scoring just 3 goals in the 3 weekend games, generating over 30 shots only in their shootout win over Kootenay.
Friday's game against Vancouver came with a lot of anticipation and hype, as the Chiefs carried an 11 game win streak, while the Giants had won 8 in a row coming in.
The Chiefs had problems developing any offense throughout the game, and fell behind 2-0 after two periods. No question the second period was the team's best, as Giants goalie Tyson Sexsmith denying Drayson Bowman net front on a great glove save, and stopping Tyler Johnson on a penalty shot. The Chiefs never seemed to recover from that, and the Giants sealed the win with 2 third period goals to win it 4-0.
The next night in Cranbrook, B.C., the Chiefs jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two periods over the Kootenay Ice. Kootenay came out in the third and quickly tied the game after just 6 minutes into the period.
The Chiefs then got a little bit of fire back and controlled the game offensively for the rest of regulation. In overtime, Spokane had a power play chance to win, but Kootenay's Andrew Bailey stole the puck at mid ice and came in a breakaway to win it.
Chiefs' goalie James Reid made a terrific glove save and the game would go to a shootout. In the shootout, Bowman scored in the second round to put the Chiefs up 1-0. After Kootenay extended the shootout with a goal in the final third round, Ondrej Roman would score to make it 2-1 Spokane. Reid then denied the Ice's Matt Fraser and the Chiefs picked up a huge road win.
I would have thought that momentum would carry over the next night against Kelowna, but the Chiefs looked like a tired team at home that Sunday. A turnover by the Chiefs led to a short handed goal by the Rockets to make it 1-0 after one. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon would bring the Chiefs even at 1 after two after a nice feed by Roman in the slot late in the period. Kelowna would get the game winner on a power play in the third, the first time the Chiefs had surrendered a power play goal in 8 games.
The Chiefs only managed 23 shots in the game, and THAT is the reason Spokane lost. Puck possession was dominated by the Rockets throughout the contest, and when you don't have the puck, you don't win many games.
The schedule doesn't get any easier for the boys this week, as they face 4 games in 5 nights. It is a week though that is very winnable in all 4 games. Spokane is at Everett to begin the week on Wednesday at 7pm.
The Chiefs have won their last two games in Everett, so the team certainly knows it can win there. Spokane will then travel to last place Portland on Friday at 7:30. Portland is much improved from earlier this season, but talent wise, are still short of the Chiefs on all levels.
The Chiefs then welcome former assistant Steve Pleau and his Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday at 7pm and then take on former goalie Kevin Armstrong and the Prince George Cougars Sunday at 6pm. Both games are ones the Chiefs should win as both the Oil Kings and Cougars are towards the bottom of their conferences. The fact is, you have to show up and play, and a less than full effort on any night will get the Chiefs in trouble. With just over a month to go in the regular season, this is the time of year the team needs to take their collective game up a notch.
Being eight points out of first place with 19 games to go, the team can't afford any more losses if they hope to catch Tri Cities and get the 2nd seed in the playoffs. Getting the division title would be nice, but more importantly, the chance to have home ice advantage till the conference finals would be huge for the team.
As usual, I'll have the call on 1510 KGA beginning a half hour before the game. Saturday's game will be on 790 KJRB because Gonzaga will be on 1510 that night. Looking forward to what is hopefully a big week for the boys, and we'll see you on the radio!