It's been an eventful week for the Chiefs on and off the ice. Starting on the ice, the team has the longest current winning streak in the league at 11 straight wins. It's been over a month since the team lost its last game, but Spokane faces a very tough weekend to keep it going.
The team with the best record in the WHL, the Vancouver Giants come to town on Friday night the 6th and the talk around the league is all about this contest. And why not? These two teams are two of the top 5 in the league, and should prove to be a preview of a playoff series in the Western Conference post-season. It's also a rematch of last year's Conference semi-finals, which the Chiefs won in 6 games on their way to the WHL title. Throw in the fact that these are the last two teams to win the Memorial Cup, and this game is worth all the hype. The Giants have won 8 in a row, so something will have to give on Friday. Both teams play a similar brand of hockey, so look for a lot of tight checking, defense first mentality, and some great speed by both offenses. This really should be one of the best games the fans will get to watch this season.
The Chiefs got some great news on Wednesday as captain Justin McCrae is back on the ice with the team. He's been bothered by a nagging heel injury, but worked out with the team at practice and looks to be a go this weekend. He will be a huge boost to the lineup, joining Michael Reddington as recent additions back for the Chiefs.
With Mac back, the team will now have to deal with the loss of defenseman Jared Cowen. Cowen. Cowen hurt the MCL in his right knee on a check against Chilliwack last Friday and will out at least a month for the Chiefs. MRI's have been taken of the injury, but a final prognosis of what course the team will have to take on the injury, including surgery, will not be known till the end of the week. An educated guess is that it looks to be closer to 2 months for the D-man, which would mean he would not be back in the lineup until the second round of the playoffs at the earliest. The team has played through injuries all year long, and I think they can survive Cow's...if he's back by round 2. If the playoffs ended today, the Chiefs would face Everett in the first round...and if they get by the Tips, they would more than likely face Tri in the second round. I don't know about you, but I'd feel a lottt better about the Chiefs chances with Cowen back in the lineup against the Ams in a tight, bitter, and tough playoff series.
With Cowen's abscence, the team will lean heavily on Brett Bartman, Stephan Ulmer, Brendan Kitchton and Corey Baldwin to pick up the slack. Veterans Trevor Glass and Jared Spurgeon will no doubt see increased ice time too. The defense has been rock solid all year long though, so I don't see a big let down there, even with Cowen's loss in the lineup. Let's just hope the big guy gets back sooner than later.
This weekend's schedule should prove to be a good barometer as to how the team stands. After the Vancouver game on Friday, the team heads to Cranbrook, B.C. to face the rival Kootenay Ice. The last game between the two proved to be a fight filled affair, so this last meeting of the year between the clubs may be a little longer game than normal! The Chiefs then return home for a Sunday game with the Kelowna Rockets at 6pm. It's the first time the Rockets have come to town and will be the first of 3 meetings in the final month plus of the regular season. The Chiefs were shutout by Kelowna in the two team's first meeting January 2, but both clubs were without a number of players at the World Junior tournament.
All I know is that we should have a realll good idea where the Chiefs stand for a possible playoff run after this weekend. See you at the rink!