Coming off of two straight losses to Portland by a combined margin of 13-3, the Chiefs started the week the same way they ended the previous one...with a road contest at Portland. Spokane was hoping to rebound from the 7-2 shellacking they had received Sunday as they took to the ice at the Memorial Coliseum Tuesday against the Winterhawks. The Chiefs now found themselves in second place in the division for the first time in this young season, so a win Tuesday would pull them back into a first place tie with Portland and re-establish some much needed confidence for the club.
Portland would be without defenseman Brendan DeJong, who was suspended 3 games by the league for his cross check hit on the Chiefs Jeff Faith on Sunday. The Hawks didn't miss a beat early in Tuesday's game though, as Kieffer Bellows finished off an odd man rush 6:40 into the game to give Portland an early 1-0 lead. Things didn't get any easier for Spokane as Rykr Cole took a 5 minute major penalty for boarding a minute later and would be given a game misconduct. The Hawks also got a 5 minute power play, which led to a distinct chance of Portland blowing open the game before it started. Fortunately for the Chiefs, the penalty kill and goalie Dawson Weatherill were on point and Spokane was able to kill off the Portland chance and keep the game 1-0 after one.
The Chiefs would get 3 power play chances in the second to zero for Portland, but Spokane's woes on the man advantage continued on this night. Not only did Spokane fail to score on any of the 3 opportunities, the Hawks scored on a breakaway on the Chiefs second chance to take a 2-0 lead after two. In the third, Spokane got two more power play chances, but were unable to break through against Portland goalie Cole Kehler, who turned back all 43 shots the Chiefs put up on the night. The Winterhawks put away the game on another breakaway late in the third, and won their third straight against Spokane with a 3-0 victory. The win was not only the third straight against the Chiefs, but set Spokane 4 points back of Portland in the division and into third place as well, 1 point back of Seattle. Spokane would now have to re-gather themselves as they headed home to face the top team in the West, the Victoria Royals, on Friday night.
The Royals came to the Spokane Arena not only the top team in the West, but the #1 in the entire CHL. After 7 straight wins to open the season, Victoria had lost its first game of the campaign in overtime to Tri City in their last outing on Wednesday. Friday night, the Royals would jump out to a 1-0 lead on a power play goal just over 4 minutes into the game. The Chiefs would respond midway through the period though as Jake McGrew started a large night for him offensively with a goal on a rebound at 10:12 to tie the game at one. The goal launched a 4 goal explosion in just 2:35. Riley Woods scored his team leading 5th of the year with a tip 20 seconds later to give Spokane a lead they would never lose at 2-1. Eli Zummack's power play goal on a 2 man advantage increased the margin to 3-1, and then Hayden Ostir scored the first of 2 for him on the night to make it 4-1 Chiefs. Victoria countered with a breakaway goal later in the first to leave it a 4-2 Spokane lead after one.
The Chiefs would add on the lead only 3:02 into the second period on a Jaret Anderson-Dolan goal. Victoria would tally just 1:10 later to cut the disadvantage to 2 once again, but Spokane came right back on McGrew's second goal of the game to build the lead back to 6-3. Unfortunately, Spokane would put one into their own net after a turnover in the final half minute of the period to bring the Royals within 6-4 after two. The Chiefs bounced right back from that goal though to score their second power play tally of the game on Ostir's second of the night at 1:43 of third to take a 7-4 lead. McGrew then capped his first career hat trick at 3:13 of the period to give Spokane an 8-4 advantage. Those goals would prove to be enough as Victoria would score two goals in the third, but it proved too little, too late for the Royals as the Chiefs handed Victoria their first regulation loss of the year at 8-6.
For the second straight game, Spokane put up 40 shots, as they out shot the Royals 40-26, including 18-6 in a 4 goal first. The biggest news for the Chiefs was the power play scoring for the first time since September 29th at Kootenay as the PP was 2-6 on the night. The Chiefs also saw the debut of defenseman Filip Kral, who notched an assist in his first game and was a composed quarterback on the power play all evening. The win snapped the team's 3 game losing streak and moved the Chiefs past Seattle into second place, 2 points back of first place Portland. Spokane would continue their home stand the next night as they hosted rival Tri City for the first time this season. Last season, the Americans owned the series between the two teams, winning 10 of 12 from Spokane.
The Chiefs looked determined to change that result this year, as Spokane scored on their first power play as Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored just 1:14 into the game to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Spokane would build on the lead as Filip Kral scored his first WHL goal in only his second game with Spokane to make it 2-0 after one. I've been extremelyyy impressed with Kral in his two games, as he makes great decisions on his breakout passes, is composed with the puck, and just seems to settle down the entire back end when he's on the ice. He'll be a greattt addition for Spokane. The Chiefs would maintain the 2 goal advantage through the second period as Spokane out shot Tri City 13-10 in the period and killed off two Americans power plays late in the stanza. The third period started off just as well for the Chiefs as Riley McKay fired home a goal just 25 seconds into the period to make it 3-0. Or did it? After a lengthy review, the goal was over turned as a hand pass was ruled after the face-off that led to the goal. As a result, the lead was still 2-0, but the complexion of the game was soon to shift in Tri City's favor.
Given a second life, the Americans took full advantage of it. Morgan Geekie scored his first of two goals in the period at 1:52 to cut the lead to 2-1. Tri would then score 2 goals 1:29 apart to take the lead for the first time at 3-2. The Chiefs never recovered, as the Ams would tack on two more goals to cap a 5 goal outburst on their way to a 5-2 win. It was Spokane's first loss after leading after two periods and gave Tri City their 11th win in the last 13 meetings with the Chiefs. To rub salt in the wound, Spokane had another goal waved off late in the third after a penalty was called on Tri City and the puck was touched by the Americans before a shot from Riley Woods went in the net. The loss wrapped up a disappointing week for Spokane as they now find themselves tied with Tri City for second in the division, but 4 points back of Portland after their win Saturday.
The Chiefs now get two home games to turn themselves around before they head out on a 4 game road trip through the league's Central Division. Spokane will host one of the top teams in the WHL in the Moose Jaw Warriors at the Spokane Arena on Wednesday before entertaining Kamloops on Friday. The Chiefs then head to Alberta on Sunday to face off with Edmonton in the first game of their trip into the Central. Spokane will get a chance to visit the Rogers Centre in Edmonton for the first time and see where their teammate Kailer Yamamoto has been working this season. The week will be another challenge for Spokane as I'll have the call on 1510 KGA for all three games. Wednesday and Friday's games will start with the pre-game at 6:30 pm and the puck drops at 7:05 pm. Sunday's game from Edmonton will start with the pre-game at 2:30 pm and the puck drop at 3:05 pm Pacific time. We hope to see you at the rink!