Following their longest road trip of the year, the Chiefs got a chance to get a week off and prepare for a brief 2 game home stand against division rivals Portland and Tri City. The rest couldn't have come at a better time for Spokane as the team had lost 5 players to illness during their journey through the Central Division the previous week, and the time off allowed the Chiefs to recuperate before two games against the clubs they were chasing at the top of the U.S. Division. Spokane made a couple of roster moves during the week as well, as they traded forward Taylor Ross to Lethbridge for a conditional draft pick. The Chiefs then re-assigned defenseman Tyson Feist to the Spokane Braves. The moves basically leaves Spokane with 3 scratches a night, which is optimal in getting everyone on the roster playing time.
While also on the week long hiatus, the Chiefs had slipped down in the standings as Portland, Tri City and Seattle had taken the top 3 spots in the division. Spokane was now a point back of Seattle for 3rd, and trailed Portland by 2 for second and Tri City by 4 for first. The Chiefs knew a couple of wins in regulation over the weekend against the Winterhawks and Americans would thrust Spokane right to the top of the division. First up was a Portland club that had swept the Chiefs in 3 straight meetings in early October. Slow starts had hindered Spokane in those previous encounters, and the Chiefs looked intent on changing that Friday. Spokane played extremely well in the first half of the first period, and would be rewarded when Jaret Anderson-Dolan finished off a Jake McGrew pass midway through the stanza to make it 1-0 Chiefs. Portland would even the game though at 11:18 when a shot from the left point hit off a Chief defender and got past goalie Dawson Weatherill. Spokane then shot themselves in the foot with back to back hi sticking penalties; the first a double minor from McGrew in the offensive zone that put Portland on a 4 minute power play. The Hawks converted the back end of it as Kieffer Bellows scored on the back side at 15:18 to give Portland a 2-1 lead. Another power play would be maximized by Bellows with just 22 seconds remaining in the period to give Portland a 3-1 advantage after one.
It was definitely a disappointing result for a period that Spokane controlled the even strength play. It also marked the 4th straight game the Chiefs had given up 2 power play goals in a game. Spokane came out and dominated the play in the second, out shooting Portland 24-9 in the period. The Chiefs looked to cut the lead to 3-2 when Zach Fischer knocked in a puck from mid-air while Spokane was on the power play early in the period. It was ruled a goal on the ice, but after a review, it was determined that Fischer had purposely re-directed the puck in with his hand. I didn't see that replay, as the one I saw in the Arena showed the puck hitting his stick. It just turned into another case where video review cost the Chiefs a goal...and more importantly, momentum. Spokane owned the period in every department...except the scoreboard, as they found themselves still down by two heading into the third.
The Chiefs would play well again in the third, but the Hawks got the only goal after a defensive breakdown by Spokane allowed Portland's leading scorer Cody Glass to go in on a breakaway and score late to cap a 4-1 victory. The Chiefs put up 48 shots on Portland goalie Cole Kehler, but for the 4th straight time Spokane came up short against the Hawks goalie. Spokane's power play continued to struggle against Portland, going 0-4 on the game and is now a dismal 0-22 in four games vs. the Winterhawks. More importantly, the team lost another two points in the standings to Portland, and the best the team can do in the 8 game season series is split; that is if Spokane can figure out a way to win 4 straight. Another season series that has been dominated against Spokane recently is that against their biggest rivals, Tri City. The Americans took 10 of 12 from Spokane last season, and had won the opener this season between the two when the Ams scored 5 third period goals to overcome a 2-0 Chiefs lead on the way to a 5-2 win in early October. Now the Chiefs faced a Tri City team that had been off since Wednesday when they beat Kelowna in overtime.
The Americans came out with a bit more jump in the first, and they certainly took care of the puck better than Spokane as Chiefs turnovers kept Weatherill on his toes in the first 20 minutes. Tri City notched the only goal of the period on a re-direct by Kyle Olson midway through the first to make it 1-0 Ams after one. Spokane looked to draw even on the power play early in the second, but the Americans Juuso Valimaki scored on a hightlight reel breakaway while Tri was short handed to give the Ams a 2-0 lead. Spokane would come right back 34 seconds later to convert the power play as Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored his second goal in as many nights to cut the lead to 2-1 after two. Spokane would pull even midway through the third when Cedric Chenier notched his first career goal midway through the third on a rebound net front to make it 2-2 and force overtime. Spokane would get a great chance in the OT when they went on the power play just 14 seconds in. The Chiefs failed to beat Americans back up goalie Patrick Dea on the man advantage, and it was a re-occurring theme through the game, as Dea would turn aside a career high 50 shots.
For the second time this season, the Chiefs headed to a shootout. Unlike the previous time against Kamloops, the Chiefs found the net in the shootout. After falling behind 1-0 aftr 2 rounds, Hudson Elynuik scored in round 3 to keep the Chiefs alive. Nolan Reid would score for Spokane in round 6 to put the Chiefs up 2-1, but Parker AuCoin beat Weatherill to send it to round 7. The Chiefs Jake McGrew missed, and when Carson Focht beat Weatherill with a back hand, the Chiefs had suffered their second straight shootout loss and 2nd in a row to Tri City this season as the Americans won it 3-2. Spokane is now 5 points back of Tri City and Portland for the top spot in the division and are 1 back of Seattle for 3rd. Spokane will now get another week of practice before heading back on the road to finish their travels through the Central Division this weekend. The Chiefs will be in Lethbridge Friday before going to Cranbrook, B.C. on Saturday against the Kootenay Ice. I'll have the call on 94.1 FM the Bear for Friday's game due to Gonzaga being on 1510 KGA. Pre-Game is at 5:30 pm Pacific with the puck drop at 6 pm. Saturday's game will be on 1510 KGA with the same times. Let's hope the Chiefs get back on the winning side of the ledger and we'll see you on the radio!