After a brief hiatus..I'm baaacckkk...
I must say I did miss being on the road with the boys on this latest road trip, but I had a veryyy good excuse for missing the four game swing as I got to spend some valuable time with my newborn son Patrick. I must say though, that I don't know how newborn parents do it though, because I'm learning a wholeee new meaning of sleep deprivation.
While I was off parenting, the Chiefs finished their four game road swing this last week. Sunday the boys lost to the Everett Silvertips for the 4th straight time, as the Tips used a three goal first period to slip past Spokane 3-2. It was certainly a switch from the last two times the teams met in Everett, as the Chiefs had blown 3-1 leads in the third period in two previous losses to the Silvertips in overtime and a shootout. The fact remains that a loss is a loss is a loss, no matter howww you go about it. Mitch Holmberg and Levko Koper tallied the goals as the Chiefs fell further behind Tri-City and Everett in the U.S. Division standings.
Spokane hoped to turn things around with their first trip to Kamloops this season on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the Blazers had veryyy different plans in mind for the boys, as they handed Spokane their worst loss in several years with an 8-1 pasting. Dominick Uher continued his good play, scoring the team's only goal. Amazingly enough, the Chiefs outshot the Blazers 27-24, but a rough start for goalie Michael Tadjdeh didn't aid the cause, and the team had a letdown in about every area of the game to lead to a blowout loss.
There was nowhere to go but up for the boys as they traveled to Chilliwack the next night to face the Bruins for the final time this season. As if the loss the night before wasn't enough incentive to get fired up, Spokane still had the memory of a 3-0 shutout loss at home to the Bruins two weeks previous.
It became apparent from the get go that the Chiefs were not going to lose their third straight,as the team used power play goals from Tyler Johnson and Jared Cowen to jump to a 2-0 lead after one. Kyle Beach and Mitch Wahl would add goals in the second and Spokane had a commanding 4-0 lead after two periods. Chilliwack would spoil goalie James Reid's shutout bid in the first minute of the third, but the Chiefs held Chilliwack at bay the rest of the period to salt away a 4-1 win. Beach and Johnson finished with a goal and an assist apiece, while Levko Koper had two helpers on the night.
It was a nice way to end the trip, as the Chiefs ended up 4-3-0-1 on the trip overall, for a possible 9 of 16 points. On the whole, if you go .500 or better on a road trip in the WHL, you have reason to feel pretty good about yourself.
The boys came home to open a four game homestand as they hosted the Seattle Thunderbirds Friday night. It was my first game back behind the microphone, and I was hoping the team wasn't as rusty as I was.
I had nothing to fear as the boys jumped out to a 3-1 lead after the first period. Kyle Beach got the scoring started with a wrap around backhander just 3:51 in to make it 1-0 Chiefs. Just two and a half minutes later, Anthony Bardaro drove the puck hard to the net and deposited a shot on the forehand through the pads of Thunderbird goalie Calvin Pickard to make it 2-0 Spokane. Seattle countered late in the period, as former Chief Burke Gallimore scored to make it a 2-1 game, but Beach tallied his second of the night just 29 seconds later to re-establish a two goal Spokane advantage. It turned out to be a huge goal in the game as the Chiefs maintained that two goal edge through a scoreless second period.
In the third, Seattle scored a 5-3 power play goal 7:44 in to bring themselves within 3-2. After that goal, the Chiefs locked down defensively, and sealed the win on a Koper empty netter with just four seconds left to put away a 4-2 win. Spokane's second straight win brought them into a tie for third in the division with Portland and gave the Chiefs the momentum they needed as they got ready to face the red hot Kootenay Ice the following night at the Arena.
Kootenay had a 14 game winning streak snapped the week before, but were coming off a convincing win over Prince Albert the night before. The first period started with 11 penalties being called, resulting in ten power plays between the two teams. The Chiefs ended up falling behind 1-0 on a 4-4 situation with less than three minutes left in the period. Spokane would answer with 47 seconds left in the first on a Beach 5-3 power play goal that he muscled over Kootenay goalie Todd Mathews. The goal was reviewed by video replay and showed that Beach put the goal in with his stick instead of his foot and the game was even at one after one.
The Chiefs carried a 5-3 power play advantage into the second after Ice defenseman Braden McNabb put a stick into the face of the Chiefs Tyler Johnson late in the final seconds of the first to draw a four minute double minor. Spokane struck quickly, as Mitch Wahl's blast from the point gave Spokane a 2-1 lead just 30 seconds into the period. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the power play went dormant over the next three and a half minutes and Spokane carried just a one goal lead later into the period.
As things invariably work out in hockey, if you fail to capitalize on your power play, the other team will make you pay on theirs and this night was nooo different. Kootenay would convert a 5-3 power play with just over 3 minutes left in the second to tie the game at two. Then a rebound goal with less than two minutes remaining in the period gave the Ice a huge 3-2 advantage going into the third. It was a real back breaker of a goal as it was one that goalie James Reid probably should have corralled, but the rebound in the slot was fat enough to put home and the Chiefs had to now come from behind in a game they probably should have put away earlier in the second.
Kootenay would score seven and a half minutes into the third on a savable shot from the far left boards towards the blue line after the Chiefs had killed off a power play to make it 4-2 Ice. It turned out to be the game winner, as Beach would score short handed on a Wahl pass in the attack zone with just under 3 minutes to bring the Chiefs within 4-3. Despite pulling Reid in the final minute, the Chiefs failed to get a serious chance against the Ice and fell for the third time this season to Kootenay by a 4-3 margin.
The Chiefs ended up 2-8 on the power play and 8-9 on the penalty kill in a game that quite frankly, was over-refereed. More than half the game was played on the power play or 4-4. Not to mention there were a couple of instances where there was confusion as to who was or was not to be in the penalty box when a team scored with a 5-3 or 5-4 power play. It led to a game that had little flow and had to be frustrating to play in and watch at times. The most frustrating aspect for Spokane though was losing to the Ice in a game that quite frankly, Spokane should have won. It's been a disturbing trend throughout the year, and with now 20 games left in the regular season, needs to be solved sooonnnn...or the Chiefs will be looking at a short playoff run.
The month of February will prove if Spokane is a contender or pretender in the playoffs in March. The Chiefs will play division leading Tri-City three times and second place Everett 5 times in the month, so Spokane can help themselves in a biggg hurry by putting together some consistent winning efforts.
The Chiefs will play Everett twice this week, hosting the Silvertips Wednesday night before heading to Everett on Saturday night. Spokane will host Kamloops on Friday night as well in a muchhh anticipated rematch with the Blazers after the 8-1 pasting last week in Kamloops.
I'll be on the air at 6:30pm each night with the puck dropping shortly after 7pm. I'll be on 1510AM KGA on Wednesday and Friday night, with Saturday's game in Everett on 105.7FM the Peak due to the Gonzaga game that night.
Here's to hoping the boys put together a winning streak! We'll see you at the rink....