After losing the first game of their eight game road trip in excruciating fashion, the Chiefs started the meat of their road trip with a three game swing through the Central Division as they went through Medicine Hat and Lethbridge in Alberta, and Cranbrook in British Columbia up north of the border.
The boys faced a major challenge in Medicine Hat, who had taken over the division lead earlier in the week. The Medicine Hat Arena is one of the toughest barns in the league to win, and the Chiefs had managed just one win in three previous visits that I had witnessed. The first period ended up scoreless, but Spokane had played really well, matching the Hat's intensity and speed.
That effort carried over to the second as the Chiefs played an almost perfect period. Mitch Wahl took a Kyle Beach pass and skated in on goal to put home his 18th goal of the year to make it 1-0 Chiefs. Spokane would extend the lead as Kenton Miller's wrister from the left circle just about 3 minutes later would give the Chiefs a 2-0 advantage. Medicine Hat would score a power play goal from Emerson Etem less than a minute later to make it 2-1 Spokane, but the Chiefs countered about 2.5 minutes later when Dominick Uher snapped one from the right circle for his second goal of the year to make it 3-1 Spokane after two.
The Chiefs would then take a 4-1 lead when Levko Koper would put home a wrister on a 2-on-1 with Wahl early in the third. Etem would cap the scoring for the Tigers with his second of the night, but Chiefs goalie James Reid shut the door the rest of the way, turning aside 10 of 11 Medicine Hat shots to preserve a 4-2 Chiefs win.
The boys looked to carry that over two nights later in Lethbridge. The team got the chance to face former teammates Michael Reddington, Landon Oslanski, and Dustin Donaghy. It promised to be an emotional reunion and the game finished as perhaps one of the more physical games the boys have played this year.
Spokane jumped out to a 1-0 lead as Wahl would score first in his third straight game. The Hurricanes Mitch Maxwell scored less than a minute later to tie the game at one after the first period.
For the third straight road game, the Chiefs would put up three goals in the second period. Steve Kuhn would put Spokane up 2-1 with a snap shot from the left circle on a 2-on-1 rush. Wahl then got his second of the game with a breakaway short handed goal midway through the period to make it 3-1 Chiefs. Spokane would cap the period with a Brady Brassart rebound goal to lead it 4-1 after two.
Just when it looked like the game was in the bag, Lethbridge scored two goals just over two minutes apart early in the third period to make it a 4-3 game. The Chiefs settled down from there though, and Wahl capped a hat trick night with an empty netter in the final seconds to give Spokane a 5-3 win. Spokane put up 42 shots in the win and it was great to see the offense get things rolling once again.
The boys would need it the next night against the hottest team in the league, the Kootenay Ice. Kootenay had won ten in a row, the longest winning streak in the WHL this season. Unfortunately, the Chiefs didn't get off to such a good start, as the Ice scored just 1:20 into the game to take a 1-0 lead.
Spokane answered back big time though. Blake Gal finished a 2-on-1 rush shorthanded as he ripped a shot home midway through the first to tie the game a 1-1. Stephan Ulmer then slapped home a power play goal from the point late in the period to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead after one. The crowd in Cranbrook was stunned by how the Chiefs took the game over and I was feeling pretty good about how things were playing out, especially with how well the team had played in second periods on the road trip.
Unfortunately, the second period magic ran out on this night, as it was the Ice that put up a three goal second period to pretty much decide the game as they took a 4-2 lead after two. Spokane fought back in the third though, as Dominick Uher scored his second goal in three games with a re-direct of a Mitch Wahl shot on the power play with less than three minutes left to make it 4-3 Kootenay.
The Chiefs pulled goalie James Reid in the final minute, but fell short to the Ice by that 4-3 margin. It just goes to show, that one bad period any night can cost you a game, as Spokane outplayed the Ice two of the three periods.
Now Spokane gets ready for almost a week to heal up, especially Tyler Johnson, who's been banged up since World Juniors. The Chiefs will finish up their season long 8 game road trip with key division games at leader Tri-City Saturday, who's won six in a row, and second place Everett on Sunday, who is now on an 11 game winning streak. The Chiefs then will finish their trip in Kamloops on Tuesday and Chilliwack on Wednesday.
As for myself, I'm on a week hiatus from the team, as Jay Stewart will call the games of the road trip. Saturday's game is on 105.7 FM the Peak, while the other three are on 1510 KGA. The reason for the mini-vacation? I'll be off spending time with my newborn son, Patrick Hendrix Boyle. He was born on Thursday, so my priority for the unforeseen future will be raising him. I'll be back on the air when the boys return home to face Seattle on January 29th.
Until then, see you at the rink!