Last week's road trip through British Columbia and into the Tri-Cities turned out better than even the most optimistic Chiefs fan could have hoped for, as Spokane went a perfect 3-0 through Kamloops, Kootenay and Tri. The three wins moved the Chiefs into third place in the U.S. Division and put them just five points behind first place Tri-City.
The week began with the journey to Kamloops, one the team was anxious to do after suffering their worst loss of the season the trip before to the Blazers home rink in an 8-1 defeat. The Chiefs were pretty determined to turn that result around in their last visit to Kamloops this season.
It became pretty clear early that Kamloops was facing a different Chiefs squad than they looked at on January 26th. Mitch Wahl put a shot in from below the right goal line that found its' way past Blazer goalie Kurtis Mucha and in the net just 4:44 in to make it 1-0 Spokane. The Chiefs Kyle Beach then took the puck from behind the net and put a wrap around on Mucha that was stopped by the Blazer goalie's leg pad, but Beach scooped up the puck and roofed a backhander net front at 15:08 to make it 2-0 Chiefs after one.
Spokane would put the game out of reach in the second, as a three goal period would extend the lead to 5-0 after two. Beach picked up his second of the game from the slot at 2:28 to make it 3-0. Jared Cowen then one timed a Tyler Johnson pass from the top of the left circle to make it 4-0 at 11:42. Wahl then scored his second of the night 10 seconds into the Chiefs first power play of the night on a blast from the point to cap the three goal period. Spokane put up 22 shots in the period as they were dominating through two periods.
The Chiefs didn't let off the gas pedal in the third either, which was nice to see, as it has been a problem through most of the season. Levko Koper scored a much needed goal for his confidence at 9:13 to make it 6-0. Beach then notched his second hat trick in his last three games, converting a Wahl pass from the slot midway through the third to cap off a convincing 7-0 Chiefs win.
Spokane outshot Kamloops 45-26 as James Reid picked up his 4th shutout of the season. Beach finished with a four point night, while Wahl put up a three point evening. The win got the road trip off to a good start, as the team headed to Cranbrook to face the Kootenay Ice.
The Chiefs had gone 0-2 in Cranbrook, losing both games 4-3. Spokane had also lost their last encounter at the Spokane Arena by the same score, so the Chiefs were anxious for a little revenge as they paid their last visit to Cranbrook this season.
Spokane jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead again, as Anthony Bardaro took a Kenton Miller pass off the left wall and drove netfront and put home his 4th goal of the year just 2:45 in to make it 1-0 Chiefs. Stephan Ulmer then put home a shot from the point at 5:09 to make it 2-0 Spokane. The Ice would come back with a goal at 7:50 to make it a 2-1 game, but Beach would notch his 9th goal in his last four games with a great pass from Blake Gal at 9:29 to give the Chiefs a 3-1 lead after the first period.
Just when things were looking good, the second period began to look just like the second period the Chiefs played in their 4-3 loss to the Ice when Kootenay put up three goals on their way to a come from behind win. Spokane was on a power play looking to take a 4-1 lead when the Ice scored a short handed goal on a breakaway from Dustin Sylvester to cut the Chiefs lead to 3-2. Kootenay would convert a 2-on-1 less than two minutes later to tie the game at 3. Brayden McNabb would then put home a wrister at 18:52 to give the Ice a 4-3 lead and it looked like, as Yogi Berra used to say, 'Deja Vu all over again.'
This time though, the Chiefs would fight back, as Ulmer put home a shot from the right blue line just 26 seconds after McNabb's goal to tie the game at four after two. It was huge goal for Spokane as they took that momentum into the third period.
Brady Brassart put home a shot net front just 3:36 into the third to give the Chiefs a lead they would never lose. Levko Koper's empty netter in the final seconds capped a 6-4 come from behind win as Spokane notched their 6th straight win, their longest winning streak of the year. Even more impressively for the Chiefs, Spokane did not put Kootenay on the power play one time in the game, taking just one fighting major for the entire contest.
The boys then headed south to arch rival Tri-City, where they had won their last contest the end of January. Saturday's game was sold out in Kennewick as a healthy number of Chiefs fans made their way down from Spokane.
Neither team was able to get on the board through the first two periods, as Spokane's penalty kill came up huge in this contest. The Chiefs knocked off five Tri power plays in the first two periods, including a 5-3 advantage for 1:09. Tri came into the game with the 2nd best power play in the league, and the best on their home ice this year. I for one, found it amazing that the Chiefs outshot Tri 18-17 over the first two periods, and generally outplayed them, yet Tri had a 5-1 edge in power plays. Now someone please tell me again, how does that happen?
Despite the obvious slant in the calls, Spokane fought through it, and came out a determined bunch in the third period. Once again, it was Brady Brassart who came through in the third. Brassart banged home a rebound of his own shot just 1:43 in to give the Chiefs the all important first goal of the game. Blake Gal then took the puck at center ice and drove down the right wing and put home a back hand net front at 2:57 to hand the Chiefs a 2-0 advantage.
The defense did the rest, shutting down the Ams from getting quality chances. Just when it looked like the Chiefs would get a rare shutout in Kennewick, leave it to the striped shirts to call yet another penalty to keep the home fans in the seats. Tri would take advantage of their 6th power play of the night to score at 18:22 to cut the lead to 2-1. Even after pulling their goalie in the final minute, the Chiefs were able to hold Tri at bay. Spokane even had a goal stolen from them on a blown call in the final minute, as Kyle Beach waited for a Tri defenseman to touch the puck after Beach had knocked a puck down with a high stick. Beach put it in the net, but the goal was waived off as the officials said Beach touched the puck first. I had a prime seat at center ice, and it was painfullyyyy obvious the Tri defender touched the puck first. Par for the night though, as the Chiefs overcame not just Tri, but the zebras, in an impressive 2-1 win.
Now before people start sounding off that I'm a homer, let me set the record straight once and for all. I call what I see. Period. If the Chiefs get a call that wasn't coming their way, I say it. If they get shafted, I'll say it as well. My father and uncle were both officials when I was kid, and they both told me to call it like it was. I do. If people see that as being a homer, guilty as charged. I see it as being up front brutally honest. I'm a chocolate or strawberry broadcaster. You'll get no vanilla from me. If you want vanilla, go to Baskin-Robbins. There. Sermon done. Now back to the game.
James Reid was rock solid in net once again and turned away 32 Tri shots, including 15 in the third to pick up the win. The Chiefs moved themselves just five points back of Tri with three more head to head matchups remaining in the season. The nice thing is that Spokane is now back in the thick of the race for the top of the division and the conference. It should lead to some exciting hockey over the final three weeks of the regular season.
The Chiefs return home for three games this week at the Arena. Spokane will take on second place Everett in a key division game Wednesday at 7pm. Friday night will be a special one, as the Chiefs honor their 25th Anniversary team when they face the Prince George Cougars. The puck will drop at 7:30pm that night as I'll do a one hour pregame show to honor the top 25 in Spokane Chiefs history. Saturday, Tri comes to town for a rematch at 7pm. It will be a greattt week to come to the rink and come watch the boys.
I'll have Wednesday's and Friday's game on 1510AM KGA with the pregame show starting at 6:30. Saturday's game will be on 105.7FM the Peak, as Gonzaga will be on 1510 that night. Pregame is at 6:30 with the puck drop at 7pm Saturday.
Come out and support the boys this week, and we'll see you on the radio!