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Mike Boyle's Chiefs Blog: Spokane in the heart of the division race

by Mike Boyle

KREM.com

Posted on December 4, 2009 at 12:57 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 4 at 3:23 PM

The Chiefs ended the month of November in style, as they took games at Tri-City on Friday and back at home against Regina on Saturday. Spokane went 10-2-1 in November and has now moved within two points of second place Portland and are just four back of division leading Tri coming into a two game weekend with Seattle and Portland.

The week began with a disappointing 4-3 overtime loss at Everett on Wednesday in a game that quite frankly, Spokane should have won. The Chiefs had a 3-1 lead over the Silvertips in the third period before surrendering two goals 46 seconds apart that tied the game.

Spokane jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Tyler Johnson's power play goal midway through the first period. After Everett tied it at one, Steve Kuhn banged home a rebound midway through the second to make it 2-1 Spokane after two. Stephan Ulmer's power play goal early in the third would up the margin to 3-1, but Everett putting up those two goals starting just 2:03 later would tie the game and force overtime.

Everett would score on a rebound goal 2:02 into OT to get their second straight win over the Chiefs this year and take over sole possession of third place in the U.S. Division. The Chiefs special teams were outstanding, going 2-3 on the power play and 5-5 on the penalty kill. No question that getting Jared Spurgeon back on the ice with those two units have been huge for the team.

I was curious to see how we would bounce back after a tough loss two nights later in Tri. No question that building has been difficult to win in and it showed in Tri's home record. The Ams were 10-1 at home going into that contest, including a 6-2 beating of the Chiefs in their previous meeting in Kennewick.

I need not have worried about the Chiefs. From the opening puck drop, it was obvious that the boys had come to play and had brought their 'A' game with them. Tyler Johnson took a Blake Gal feed on a 2-on-1 and scored shorthanded just over three minutes in and the Chiefs had early control. Jared Cowen's power play goal just over seven minutes later would make it 2-0. Then Brendan Kichton would notch his first goal of the year late in the first and it was 3-0 Spokane after one. The Chiefs penalty kill was huge as well, knocking off four Tri power plays in the first on their way to an 8-9 performance.

Mitch Wahl's goal of a 3-on-2 from Levko Koper and Gal would make it 4-0 Chiefs after two. Only a Tri power play goal late in the game spoiled goaltender James Reid's shutout, as he turned away 41 Tri shots on the night, including 19 in the third.

It was a great win for the boys, who played their best road game of the year, with performances in Kelowna and Calgary ranking right behind this one. It was a huge win in the standings as well, as the Chiefs moved within six points of first place instead of falling ten off the pace with a loss.

Spokane then looked to finish the weekend off in style as they hosted the dangerous Regina Pats. Regina had gone 3-1 against the U.S. Division on their road swing, losing only to Seattle, so they had been a great help to the Chiefs. Spokane didn't prove to be such gracious hosts though, as the Chiefs handed the Pats a 4-0 shutout loss that moved Spokane within four points of Tri in the division standings after the Ams lost to Everett.

Tyler Johnson scored the first goal once again, this time midway through the first on a give-and-go with Levko Koper. It was the third straight game Johnson had scored the first goal, and was his sixth in his last five games in a row. The streak of five straight matches the longest in the league this year, tying him with teammate Mitch Wahl.

Kenton Miller's breakaway just over two minutes into the second would make it 2-0 Chiefs. Then Spokane would put the game away on a Kuhn goal late in the third, followed by Ryan Letts first goal of the year on an empty netter 34 seconds later. The Chiefs held a tired Regina team to just 22 shots as Reid picked up his 3rd shutout of the year.

Reid has been dialed in all month, earning the WHL's Player of the Month in November, going 10-1 with a goals against average just over 1.00. No question he has been a major reason the team is back in the thick of the division race again. It's great to see Reider get recognized for his play.

Now the team gets ready for key division games with a resurgent Seattle team and second place Portland. The Thunderbirds have been coming on, with the second best record in the division, behind the Chiefs, over the last ten games. Portland is just two points up on Spokane, so this game in the Rose City Sunday will be a greatttt opportunity to catch a team ahead of the Chiefs in the standings.

I'll be on the air on 1510AM KGA with both games. Friday's will start with the pregame at 6:30 with the puck drop at 7pm at the Arena, while Sunday's pregame is at 4:30 with the game at 5pm.

Let's hope December goes as well as November. We'll see you at the rink!

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