The Chiefs had started their 6 game homestand about as well as you could hope as they ran roughshod over Seattle 8-2. Now the team was hoping to keep the momentum going as they took on a Red Deer squad in the only meeting between the two teams this season. The Rebels became the 2nd Central Division team to make it into Spokane, following Lethbridge, who had lost to the Chiefs in early October. Spokane had won in Red Deer last season, but had dropped the last game the two clubs had played in Spokane the season before.
It looked like the Chiefs would run their home record to 8-0 as Brenden Kichton scored on a back door pass just 4:18 into the game and it was 1-0 Spokane. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, that was the end of the offensive production on the night, as the Rebels slowly took control of the game midway through the first period. Red Deer was outshot by the Chiefs 12-5 in the first, but the Rebels were winning the puck battles on the walls and were outskating Spokane over the later half of the first period. That would certainly show itself in the second, as the Rebels dominated the Chiefs, outshooting Spokane 18-8 and putting in two goals 3:16 apart midway through the period to take a 2-1 lead after two.
Spokane gave up another goal just 5:33 into the third after losing a face-off in their defensive zone and now faced a 3-1 deficit, their largest at home this season. The Chiefs didn't manage a whole lot of looks offensively until they pulled goalie Eric Williams in the final 2:30, but Spokane couldn't find a way to get the puck past Red Deer goalie Patrik Bartosek and the Chiefs fell for the first time at home this season as the Rebels skated to a 3-1 win. It was a very disappointing outing for Spokane, as the Chiefs were a shell of themselves from the team that beat Seattle on Tuesday. Another negative was the loss of defenseman Reid Gow, who left the game with an injury, leaving the Chiefs down 5 veteran players on the injured list. The one positive was the play of Williams in net, as he turned aside 28 Red Deer shots to keep the game respectable.
Fortunately for Spokane, the Chiefs didn't have a lot of time to dwell on the loss, as they welcomed the Everett Silvertips to the Spokane Arena the next evening. Spokane had lost 6-5 in Everett the week previous, but the score was closer than the game indicated as Everett had pounced on the Chiefs for 4 goals in the first and led 6-2 after two periods before Spokane put up 3 goals in the third to draw within one. One thing was for sure. If Spokane skated and competed like they had the night before, a repeat performance would certainly come from the Silvertips.
The Chiefs made it clear from the get go that a slow start was not going to be in the recipe on this night as Spokane's Connor Chartier put home a rebound just 3 minutes into the game to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Collin Valcourt would slam home a Dylan Walchuk shot across the goal line late in the first to stake Spokane to a 2-0 lead after one. The Chiefs kept it coming in the second when Adam Helewka scored on a nice shot from between the circles 4.5 minutes into the period to make it 3-0 Spokane. Todd Fiddler then put home his 5th goal in 3 games with a power play tally just over 3 minutes later to put the Chiefs up 4-0 after two.
Meantime, goalie Eric Williams was as sharp as you could ask for, stopping every Everett opportunity, including a breakaway and 4 shots from point blank range to keep the Tips off the scoreboard. Spokane would extend the lead to 5-0 when Brenden Kichton scored the Chiefs second straight power play goal of the night and that was more than enough for Williams. The Chiefs netminder would turn aside 26 Everett shots on the evening and register his and Spokane's first shutout of the year with a 5-0 victory. The special teams were excellent for Spokane, going 2-4 on the power play and a perfect 2-2 on the penalty kill.
It was the perfect bounce back from the previous night's disappointment and gave the Chiefs the momentum in the series between the two teams as they took 2 days off before meeting up again at the Arena Tuesday night. There was little doubt that the Silvertips would come out fired up after being shutout the previous meeting. The Chiefs would start back up goalie Garret Hughson, giving Williams a rare night off. Spokane would get opportunities galoreee in the first, getting 4 power play chances in the first 20 minutes, including a 4 minute man advantage after double minor penalties on the Silvertips Lucas Grayson. Spokane was unable to take advantage of any of the 4 power plays though, as the league's top power play unit was stymied by Everett and the Chiefs inablility to take care of the puck.
Spokane had to kill off only one Everett power play in the first, and after successfully doing so, the Chiefs Mikulas Rimmel took matters into his own hands. Rimmel would steal the puck in the Everett end, and put a backhander by Silvertips goalie Dan Cotton late in the first to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead after one. Somehow that lead would hold up in the second, as Spokane was dreadfullll offensively in the period, getting outshot 10-5 and spending most of the stanza in their own zone of the ice. Hughson was rock solid though, making every save he had to make and Spokane's defense helped out a great deal with great backchecking, good stick work and excellent shot blocking.
The 1-0 lead held up until the 7:36 mark of the third when Connor Chartier converted a Liam Stewart pass to make it 2-0 Spokane. It was Chartier's third straight game with a goal against the Silvertips. Everett then went on the power play for the only time in the third, and for just the second and final time in the game less than a minute later. Instead of cutting the Chiefs lead to 2-1, the Tips gave up a shorthanded goal when Dylan Walchuk banged home a rebound of a Brenden Kichton shot just 1:10 after Chartier's goal to take control at 3-0. From that point, the Silvertips body language sank, and Spokane controlled the rest of the game.
The Chiefs would wrap up the 4-0 win when Helewka scored in his second straight game against the Tips at 13:27. The only suspense left at that point was whether Hughson would get his first career shutout in net. Hughson would do just that, turning away all 22 Everett shots, and Spokane notched their second straight blanking of Everett. The Chiefs outscored the Silvertips 9-0 in the two game series, and extended their lead over Seattle to 9 points and to 12 over Everett. Spokane is now just one point back of first place Portland and are tied with Tri City with 26 points. The Chiefs are also 9-1 on home ice and 13-6 overall, a greattt record when you consider the team is without their leading scorer, Mitch Holmberg, and forwards Blake Gal and Marek Kalus, as well as defensemen Gow and Tanner Mort.
The young rookies have stepped up and filled the void for Spokane, and they will be put to the test biggg time this weekend when they host the two teams with the best records in the WHL. The #1 team in the CHL, the Kamloops Blazers, come to town Friday night at 7:05pm. Kamloops is a remarkable 17-2-0-1 through 20 games and their 35 points is 8 better than any other team in the league. The team that is 8 back is the Portland Winterhawks, who come to the Arena on Saturday at 7:05pm. The Chiefs will no doubt get their litmus test as to how they stack up with the best in the league this weekend.
It should be great hockey and I certainly hope the fans turn out to give the Chiefs a boost from the stands. There's no doubt the team would really appreciate the support. I'll have the call on 790 KJRB for the Kamloops game beginning with the pre-game show at 6:30pm. Saturday's game will be back on the team's regular home on 1510 KGA starting with the pre-game at 6:30pm. It should be a high energy weekend of hockey and I hope to see you at the rink!