Spokane Chiefs Blog: Ups and downs
Posted on November 4, 2013 at 5:21 PM
Updated Monday, Nov 4 at 11:52 PM
Having dropped out of first place in the U.S. Division with a loss to Portland the previous Saturday, the Chiefs headed back on the road as they took a two game road trip through British Columbia to take on the Kamloops Blazers and Vancouver Giants. The two teams were the lowest ranked clubs in the Western Conference, so it looked like an opportunity for the Chiefs to get some momentum back after losing two of their last 3 at home. The Blazers were also on a 4 game losing streak coming in, and had just dropped a 4-1 decision at home to Vancouver on Sunday.
Spokane would open the game in Kamloops with Garret Hughson in goal and Spokane had a chance to take the early lead going on the power play late in the first period. A turnover by the Chiefs would lead to a Blazer breakaway though, and Matt Needham's shorthanded goal at 14:34 would give Kamloops a 1-0 lead after the first. The Blazers picked up where they left off in the second as two goals 35 seconds apart in the first 2:36 would lift Kamloops to a 3-0 lead and the Chiefs were in full scramble mode. The Chiefs would replace Hughson with Eric Williams and Spokane would finally get on the board at 8:53 of the period when Adam Helewka snapped a shot from the slot to make it a 3-1 game. That goal got the Chiefs started on a 3 goal period. Carter Proft's second goal of the year at 17:15 drew Spokane within 3-2 and then Mitch Holmberg would score his league leading 18th goal of the season on a rebound with just .6 seconds left to get the Chiefs even at 3 after two periods.
The momentum wouldn't hold into the third though, as Kamloops would score 7:07 in to re-take the lead at 4-3. Spokane came right back at 9:52 when Helewka scored his second of the night at 9:52 and the Chiefs were even at 4. Just when it looked like the Chiefs would come back and pull one out on the road, Spokane saw Kamloops score just 29 seconds after Helewka's goal to go up 5-4. It would turn out to be the game winner, as the Chiefs would fail to score with their net empty in the final minute and a half and Kamloops would take a 5-4 win. It was a disappointing start to the week, to say the least, and the team was now 3 points back of Portland as the Winterhawks won over Brandon.
Spokane now had to head to Vancouver to face a Giants team that had won 3 straight, including back to back wins in Prince George. The one thing the Chiefs needed to do was get off to a muchhh better start than they had in Kamloops and they would do just that when Dominic Zwerger would score his 4th goal of the season at 12:52 to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Mitch Holmberg picked up the assist, extending his point scoring streak to 17 straight games. It was also the beginning of a 4 assist night for Holmberg, a career high. Vancouver would come back and tie the contest at 1 on a goal late in the first, and despite outshooting the Giants 17-6 in the period, the game was even.
Spokane would break the tie on their first power play of second period, when Mike Aviani scored his league best 8th power play goal at 7:17 to put the Chiefs up for good at 2-1. Helewka would follow with his first of the night at 13:38 and the Chiefs had a 3-1 lead after two. I mentioned first of the night, as Helewka would score three more before the night was done. His second goal at 1:07 of the third put Spokane in control at 4-1. Vancouver though would come storming back with two goals in less than a 5 minute span midway through the period to cut the Chiefs lead to 4-3.
Helewka would get it cranked up again though on the power play, as he would score back to back goals at 16:43 and 17:13 to put the game on ice at 6-3. Vancouver would tack on a late power play goal to finish the game, but Spokane would snap their first 2 game losing streak of the year with their 7th win in 10 road games this year. The victory also gave the Chiefs a boost momentum wise going into a huge early season matchup with first place Portland at the Spokane Arena the following evening. The Winterhawks entered the game with a 10 game win streak and a 3 point lead over the Chiefs.
Portland had won a week earlier over Spokane 4-3 and had won 2 in a row over the Chiefs this season. With a win in regulation, the Chiefs could cut the Hawks lead to one point in the division. Over the previous 15 meetings between the two, Portland had scored the first goal in every game, going 13-2 in that time span. The good news for the Chiefs was the Winterhawks didn't score 51 seconds into the game like they had the last time the two teams met. The bad news was Portland would notch the first goal of the game on a power play goal at 13:11 of the first to take a 1-0 lead after one.
The Chiefs were very much in the game down by just one goal, but that changed just 1:06 into the second period when a backhand from Portland's Alex Schoenborn found it's way through the pads of goalie Eric Williams and the Hawks had a 2-0 lead. The goal sucked the life out of the building and the Chiefs offensively, and Spokane didn't manage much on net, putting together just one good flurry and 7 shots as Portland took the two goal advantage to the third. Spokane turned it up on offense in the third, but a Chiefs turnover in neutral ice led to a 2 on 1 break for Portland and the resulting goal at 11:08 pretty much put the game away at 3-0. Spokane would avoid being shutout for the first time this year when Cole Wedman scored at 17:11 to make the final 3-1. Zwerger and Jackson Playfair picked up their first assists of the year on the goal and gave the Chiefs a little positive news on a night of a not so positive result.
Now the Chiefs are 5 points back of Portland in the division and are tied for second with Everett and Seattle, and are just 2 points ahead of Tri City in a tight and veryyy competitive division. Spokane gets ready for the new week ahead by doing what else? But going on the road! It seems the team has lived an awful lot on the bus this early season, but honestly, I'd rather get the travel out of the way early rather than cram it all in during the latter half of the year. Spokane will finish off their trip through the Central Division as they head to Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Kootenay this week.
Spokane went 2-1 in the first half of the trip at Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary, and hope to at least duplicate that success this week. It will be a huge challenge though, as Medicine Hat is the top team in the Central right now, and Kootenay is always a tough place to play. As the Kamloops game showed, the Chiefs can not in anyyy way, shape or form overlook Lethbridge, who has the last place mark in the league. Hopefully the team will get back on its' game this week and enjoy the bus ride while doing so. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA beginning at 5:30pm Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Kootenay. The puck will drop at 6pm Pacific each of those nights and we hope to see you on the radio!