As the old Irish song goes, it may be a long way to Tipperary, but I assure you it's longer to Prince George. The Chiefs set off on their second longest road trip of the season Sunday night as they headed North towards the Yukon to face the Cougars in back to back games Tuesday and Wednesday. Spokane was coming off a dramatic, last minute win over PG at the Spokane Arena Saturday and were hoping to keep the momentum going at the CN Centre.
The overnight ride North was every bit as long as it ever was, as the team departed the Spokane Arena about 8pm Sunday and arrived at the team hotel in Prince George at around 10am. I was just glad the team got the day off Monday to recover. The start of the game Tuesday though indicated that maybe the Chiefs were still on the bus, as they managed just 5 shots on net and found themselves down 1-0 after a Cougar power play goal.
The second period started much like the first, but midway through, Spokane started to find their game offensively as they put up 9 shots in the period. The Chiefs would get on the scoreboard when Todd Fiddler would take the puck into the Cougar zone and poke it past PG goalie Mac Engel with just 1:09 left in the second to tie the game at 1. It was a huge goal momentum wise, and that would become apparent as the third period got underway.
In what would become the best period in the two games in Prince George, Mitch Holmberg would tip a Reid Gow shot just 4:44 into the third to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead. Collin Valcourt's power play goal just 41 seconds later would extend the margin to 3-1 Spokane. Tyler King's one timer at 7:59 would make it 4-1 and put the Chiefs squarely in the driver's seat. When Dylan Walchuk scored at 12:35, it effectively ended the competitive phase of the contest. Spokane would cap the scoring when Fiddler scored his second of the night, shorthanded from Liam Stewart on a 2-1 rush, and the Chiefs skated off with a 6-1 victory.
Spokane actually got outshot in the game 25-23, including 14-9 in the third, but scoring on 5 of their 9 shots lifted the Chiefs to their 2nd straight win over the Cougars. The win also put the Chiefs in second in the U.S. Division, passing Portland and getting Spokane within 2 points of first place Tri City. It also gave the Chiefs a chance to tie for first with a win the next night over the Cougars. The hope was that Spokane would come out in game 2 with the same intensity they showed in game one.
Wednesday's game two saw Spokane jump out to an early lead as Mike Aviani scored on a backhander just 8:27 into the game to make it 1-0 Chiefs. Spokane wasn't playing well though, so the hope was that the lead would hold until the intermission and give the Chiefs a chance to regroup. Unfortunately, a costly turnover by defenseman Jason Fram at the PG blue line would spring Brett Roulston on a breakaway, and Roulston's shot top shelf beat goalie Eric Williams to tie the game at one. Williams was outttstandingg on this night, and there wasn't much he could do on a good shot by Roulston.
It was still a 1-1 game heading the second, but the first shift of the period became a quick indicator on how the night would go. Spokane failed to clear the puck on a couple of occasions, and the Cougars banged home a rebound in the net just 26 seconds into the period to take a 2-1 lead. Prince George would extend the lead to 3-1 midway through the second when a shot hit off of defenseman Reid Gow into the open net. The Chiefs meantime generated nothing offensively and put themselves in a two goal hole heading to the third.
Unfortunately for Spokane, the third period was pretty much like the first and second offensively as the Chiefs actually outshot the Cougars 14-6, but it was Prince George that would score when the Chiefs pulled Williams from net in the final 3 minutes, as PG sealed the win to take a 4-1 lead. Brenden Kichton's power play goal in the final 30 seconds was a positive note to end on, but it was farrrr too little, too late for the Chiefs as they saw their 3 game win streak end 4-2. It was more than a disappointing end to the 2 game set in Prince George, and it certainly made for a longgg ride to Everett following the game.
Now Spokane gets ready to face U.S. Division rivals Everett and Tri City on Friday and Saturday to finish off the 4 game road trip. The Chiefs will then head home to open a 6 game home stand with Seattle on Tuesday. Friday and Tuesday's games will be on 1510 KGA, while Saturday's game in Tri will be on 790 KJRB due to the Gonzaga game. Friday's game is at 7:30pm, with the pre-game at 7pm on 1510. Saturday and Tuesday will see the pre-games at 6:30pm and the puck drops at 7:05pm. Here's to hoping the Chiefs bounce back and we hope to see you at the rink!
Coming off their disappointing loss in Seattle, the Chiefs had a chance to make amends as they faced the Thunderbirds in a rematch at the Spokane Arena on Friday night. There were a lot of things the team didn't do well in their first game in Seattle, but first and foremost in my mind, was taking care of the puck in the Chiefs defensive zone. Numberous times the team had the puck and carelessly threw it right to a T-Bird defender, leading to an easy Seattle scoring chance or goal. This would be the one area of the Chiefs game I was going to keep an eye on in Friday's rematch.
From the get go, Spokane did a much better job of being responsible with the puck, limiting the Thunderbirds to just 6 shots on net in the first period. Unfortunately, the Chiefs still found a way to trail early as a rebound off Spokane goalie Eric Williams found its' way to Branden Troock's stick and his goal at 6:24 of the period put Seattle up 1-0 after one. It was the second straight game the Thunderbirds had scored early and held a one goal lead after 20 minutes. In Seattle, the two teams then burst out with a 6 goal second, with 3 goals for each team. On this night, it was a much different result, as just one puck made it in the net. That would come off the stick of Chiefs rookie Adam Helewka, who scored his second goal in as many games against the T-Birds, as he tallied at 17:37 of the second to tie the game at two.
Spokane dominated offensively in the second, putting up 11 of the 15 shots in the period. The Chiefs were controlling possession of the puck and keeping the pressure on the Seattle defensive end of the ice. That trend would continue into the third as Spokane would put up 15 of the 20 shots in the period. The effort would pay off midway through the third when Helewka banged home a rebound after working the puck out of the pads of Seattle goalie Justin Myles at 9:17 of the period for what turned out to be the game winning goal. The Chiefs would end up outshooting Seattle 36-15 in the contest and earned a well deserved 2 points with a 2-1 win.
It was a nice bounce back from the previous meeting with the Thunderbirds and ran the Chiefs mark on home ice to 5-0. Spokane didn't have long to gloat about the win though, as the Prince George Cougars came into the Arena the following night. The Cougars had dropped 4 in a row, and had gone scoreless in their last two games. In other words, it was a dangerousss team coming into Spokane looking to get off their losing streak. The game would also mark the homecoming of Cougar goalie Mac Engel, who had just been traded the previous week after 3 years in Spokane. There was no doubt he wanted to play well against his former team.
The Chiefs would come out in the first and play one of their better periods of the season, as they would outshoot PG 14-1 in the first and Spokane would capitalize on their only 2 power play chances of the stanza. Mike Aviani would score his 6th of the season at 8:54 to put Spokane up 1-0. The Chiefs had several chances to extend the lead, including a Todd Fiddler breakaway while the team was shorthanded, but Engel stoned every chance to keep it a one goal game. Tyler King would fire one past Engel though on the outside post on Spokane's second power play chance at 14:12 to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead after one.
The lead could have been muchhh greater if not for the efforts of Engel and it kept Prince George in the game. The Cougars, who had now gone 7 periods without scoring, would benefit from some very questionable calls midway through the second period. Mike Aviani collided with a Cougar at the Spokane blue line and was whistled for interference. Twenty five seconds later, Mitch Holmberg was called for tripping in a classic case where the PG skater fell over his own two feet. This led to a Collin Jacobs 5 on 3 power play goal, the first let in my Chiefs goalie Garrett Hugheson, who was making his Spokane debut. Prince George would pull even as the Cougars took advantage of a Spokane change on the 5-4 end of the power play and Jari Ericcson scored just 1:12 after Jacobs goal to tie the game at two.
As if the Holmberg call wasn't bad enough, the referees then cited Collin Valcourt for an unsportsmanlike conduct...this after Cougar defenseman Dan Gibb punched Chiefs forward Dylan Walchuk right in the mouth in front of them! Gibb got nothing. The Chiefs then got an Aviani breakaway while shorthanded, but Fiddler was cited for interference on the breakaway, which led the crowd to a lynch mob mentality at this point. I couldn't blame them. In a game that saw Spokane clearly outplaying Prince George, there was noooo reason for the referees to suddenly step in and determine the game. IF Spokane was committing penalties, that's one thing. This was not the case in this instance. The penalties led to anotherrr Prince George 5 on 3, but Spokane was able to turn away the Cougars in this instance to keep the game tied at two early in the third period.
The Chiefs would start to re-take control of the game as the third period continued. Spoka
e would put up 17 of the period's 21 shots and it would be the 17th that would prove to be the final blow. Dylan Walchuk stole the puck in the Cougar zone in the last minute. A shot would go wide but the Chiefs Connor Chartier would take the puck off the end wall and feed it in the goal crease, where Walchuk would push it past Engel for the game winner with just 24.1 seconds left. It was a gritty win for Spokane, who had to overcome Engel's 35 saves in net, not to mention the penalty fest in the late second period.