Spokane Chiefs Blog: Snapping the streaks
Posted on January 22, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Coming off an impressive win over Kootenay the previous Saturday that wrapped up 4 games in 5 nights for the Chiefs, Spokane set out on another busy week with 4 games in 6 nights, starting with back to back tilts with the red hot Kelowna Rockets. Kelowna had won 8 in a row before seeing that streak snapped in their last game at Vancouver. The Rockets were ranked the #4 team in the CHL, the second highest in the Western Hockey League and even more impressively had won 17 straight games at home, suffering their last loss to the Chiefs back on October 10th.
It seemed apparent from the get go that the Rockets were out to change that result as they jumped on the Chiefs with a power play goal just 3:03 on a Ryan Olsen backhander. Goalie Eric Williams kept Spokane in the game as the Chiefs were dominated in the first and were only down 1 heading into the second. The Rockets kept up the pressure in the second and it paid off as they rattled off 3 goals in the first 11:05 of the period to take a commanding 4-0 lead after two. Spokane had several chances with net front looks and breakaway opportunities, but failed to solve Rockets goalie Jordan Cooke.
Spokane finally started competing at the intensity level needed in the third. Todd Fiddler would snap home his 29th of the year midway through the third to make it a 4-1 game. Alessio Bertaggia, who was making his Chiefs debut after being acquired in a trade from Brandon the week before, made is impact felt as he scored on a shorthanded breakaway at 16:36 to bring Spokane within 4-2. Bertaggia was back at it on the power play just 1:17 later as he converted a Brenden Kichton rink long feed to put the Chiefs back in the game at 4-3.
The Chiefs would pull backup goalie Garret Hughson, who had come on for Williams after Kelowna's 4th goal, and put an extra attacker on the ice in the final minute and a half. Unfortunately for Spokane, the Rockets Zach Franko skated right through the Chiefs and scored an empty netter with 1:02 left to nullify the Spokane comeback with a 5-3 Rockets win. In the end, the result was just, as the Chiefs found out that 20 minutes of effort in a game will not get a win on the road, let alone against a good team.
The nice thing for Spokane was they would get a chance to redeem themselves against the Rockets at home two days later at the Spokane Arena. Once again though, it was Kelowna that got off to the quick lead, as they would score on the power play just 5:03 into the game to go up 1-0. It was just two minutes later than the Rockets had done in the last game, but it looked eerily similiar to Wednesday night's game. This time around though, the Chiefs would answer as Kichton banged home a rebound off a Bertaggia shot at 8:45 to tie the game at one. Spokane would lose that momentum though late in the first as Olsen would score his second goal in as many games on an odd man rush to make it 2-1 Kelowna after one.
That goal definitely lifted the Rockets in the second, as they got a power play goal from Olsen and a goal off the skate of Mackenzie Johnston to take a 4-1 lead after two. The Chiefs would once again have to come up with a monster third period to get back in this one. It looked like Spokane would as Blake Gal one timed a shot just 41 seconds in to bring the Chiefs within 4-2. Unfortunately the team couldn't find another one in the net and for the second straight game, Spokane lost a two goal decision to the Rockets. Even worse, the Chiefs lost Bertaggia after he got jammed in the shoulder by a Kelowna defenseman late in the game, and Spokane faced the prospect of losing their most dynamic offensive player for the weekend.
The next day, the Chiefs found out Bertaggia would be gone at least for the next week as they went to take on the arch rival Tri City Americans on Saturday at the Arena. Tri City came in just 2 points back of Spokane for 2nd place in the division and 4th place in the conference, which is the final home ice team in the first round of the playoffs. Needless to say, it was a big game. After winning 4 of the first 5 meetings, Spokane had dropped the last two matchups to the Americans. The Chiefs came out like a team determined to snap that streak as they peppered former Chief goalie Luke Lee-Knight with 18 shots in the first period. Spokane only came out the period tied at one though, as they gave up a breakaway goal midway through the period, before getting Todd Fiddler's 30th of the season with just 11 seconds left in the first.
Spokane would get a Carter Proft goal from the slot midway through the second to go up 2-1 after two periods. After playing as well as they had through 40 minutes, you had to figure if Spokane kept that up in the third, it would lead to a Chiefs win. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Tri City took full advantage of two Chiefs turnovers around the Tri City blue line to go on odd man rushes up ice, and converted both of them within 4:18 of each other midway through the third to take a 3-2 lead. It seemed hard to believe that Spokane was outshooting Tri by a nearly 2 to 1 margin and controlling the game, yet were still losing.
The Chiefs would come back on the power play though, as after having no power plays in the first two periods, Spokane would score on their third and final chance in the third. Dylan Walchuk tipped a Brenden Kichton shot in the net at 14:40 to tie the game at 3 and send it to overtime. All of the excitement of the 5 minute OT was shot down just 21 seconds in as Malte Stromwall's routine shot from the left wing beat Williams glove and for the second time this season a Stromwall goal in overtime beat the Chiefs.
The team's losing streak was now at a season high 3 games, and the task of heading to Portland to take on the league leading Winterhawks and trying to break the streak was daunting at best. The game was an afternoon game on Martin Luther King Day on Monday, as the old Memorial Coliseum had the curtains open to let in the daylight in the arena. It's kind of a cool setting, and Spokane will experience it again in late February for President's Day Monday, so if you get the chance, make the drive to the Rose City and check it out for yourself.
As for the game, once again, like they had done in their previous 3 losses, the Chiefs fell behind early as a Ty Rattie rebound just 3:12 into the game put Portland up 1-0. Spokane would rally behind Todd Fiddler as he scored from the right wing midway through to tie the game at one. Mike Aviani would then give the Chiefs the lead at 15:45 with his 22nd of the year from the left circle to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead after one. Spokane put up 18 shots in the first, and really showed signs of playing like the team we had seen the first half of the season.
Fiddler would snap home his 4th shorthanded goal of the year, and second of the game at 6:57 of the second period to extend the Chiefs lead to 3-1. Portland would come right back with a shorthanded tally of their own late in the period to cut the Spokane lead to 3-2 and give themselves a huge boost heading to the third. The last time Spokane had been in Portland 10 days earlier, the Chiefs carried a 2-1 lead to the third, only to see the Winterhawks explode for a 4 goal third to run away to a 5-2 win. I'm sure this was on the Chiefs minds as they headed out for the final 20 minutes.
Mitch Holmberg, who ended up with 3 assists on the night, stole the puck in neutral territory and fed Aviani for a breakaway. Aviani rifled it past Portland goalie Mac Carruth for his second of the night and the Chiefs had a huge insurance goal and a 4-2 lead at 11:05 of the period. As you would expect, Portland turned up the pressure late in the third, but Williams turned aside 33 of 35 Hawks shots to keep Portland at bay. With Carruth on the bench and the extra skater on, the Chiefs would get the puck out of their end and Blake Gal would feed an open Fiddler, who secured his second hat trick of the year to wrap up a 5-2 win.
Fiddler now leads the WHL with 33 goals, 10 over his previous season high. It was a muchhh needed win for Spokane, as they handed the Winterhawks their first loss against Spokane in 4 meetings. Now the teams will get together for the final two matchups in the Spokane Arena this season, as the Chiefs host the Winterhawks Wednesday and Friday nights at 7:05pm. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA beginning with the pre-game shows at 6:30pm. The Chiefs will wrap up the week with the Medicine Hat Tigers coming to town Saturday at 7:05pm. That game will be on 790 KJRB due to the Gonzaga game that night, but the pre-game will also be at 6:30pm for that contest. It will be interesting to see how Spokane comes out this week...as the team that struggled after the holidays, or the club that played so well in wins over Kootenay and Portland. We shall wait and see. In the meantime, we hope to see you at the rink!
PROJECT INSPIRE WSU to induct Steve Gleason into Athletic Hall of Fame