Posted on December 10, 2013 at 11:47 AM
Tuesday, Dec 10 at 11:47 PM
As far as the Chiefs were concerned, there was no where to go but up after getting abused 5-1 Sunday on home ice by Seattle. Spokane didn't have a lot of time to sulk about the loss either, as they welcomed the Saskatoon Blades to the Spokane Arena on Wednesday. The Blades were finishing up their 5 game trip through the U.S. Division after losing the previous 4 meetings, including a 3-1 loss at Tri City the night before. Former Chief Collin Valcourt was also making his first appearance back in Spokane after being traded at the trading deadline the year previously.
Neither team came out particularly sharp in the first period as the two clubs failed to score on their first power play chances. Saskatoon had the chance to take the lead on their second man advantage of the period, but it was the Chiefs that would take advantage as Liam Stewart fed Mitch Holmberg for a breakaway and Holmberg beat Blades goalie Troy Trombley at 17:51 of the period to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Getting a shorthanded goal is always a huge momentum builder, but getting two shorties is a difference making set of events. Spokane would do just that when Stewart and Holmberg combined again on the same Blades power play at 19:29 after a flurry in front of the Saskatoon net to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead after the first.
If the Blades were disheartened by the events at the end of the first, they sure didn't show it starting the second. Saskatoon got on the board just 1:03 into the second period on an odd man rush and the Blades were right back in the game at 2-1. Chiefs goalie Eric Williams kept Saskatoon at bay the rest of the period though, turning away 11 of 12 shots to keep Spokane on top at 2-1 after two periods. Saskatoon's Trombley was doing his part as well, stopping all 14 Chiefs shots in the period, some at point blank range to keep it a one goal game. The third period was a back and forth affair, as the two teams combined for 24 shots, 15 from Spokane. The two goalies were the stars of the show though, as both teams were frustrated from getting on the scoreboard.
Spokane would hang on for a 2-1 win as Williams turned aside 27 shots in getting first star honors. Trombley was excellent as well, stopping 37 Chiefs shots in a losing effort. It's not very often you see a game where a team scores two shorthanded goals in the same power play to win, but that's exactly what the Chiefs did on this night. Spokane got their team game somewhat back on track, as they put up 39 shots, outshooting the Blades by 11. Spokane was hoping the win would carry over into a weekend home and home series with the very same Seattle Thunderbirds team that had humbled Spokane Sunday.
Game one would be at the Arena on Friday. Spokane would get off to a better start in the re-match as the Chiefs Adam Helewka would score on Spokane's first power play of the game to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead just 6:54 into the game. Seattle would even the game on a Branden Troock goal off a face-off in the Chiefs zone midway through the period to even the game at one after the first. Spokane played much better in the first 20 minutes than they had the entire 60 the game before with Seattle. Unfortunately, the good effort of the first would be washed away in the second, as Seattle scored 3 goals in less than 5 minutes late in the period to take a 4-1 lead. The scoring spree started when the Chiefs had their only power play of the period wiped out by a shall I say, awfulll diving call on Helewka that squared things up 4 on 4 on the ice. Seattle took full advantage, scoring 2 goals on the 4 on 4 1:03 apart to take a 3-1 lead. A late power play goal gave the T-Birds a 4-1 lead after two.
Any attempt at a Chiefs comeback in the third were quickly dispersed when Seattle's Justin Hickman scored two goals on backup goalie Garret Hughson, who took over for Williams starting the period, as the Thunderbirds took a commanding 6-1 lead. Helewka would score his second of the game with a shorthanded goal midway through the third to make it 6-2, but Troock would cap his first career hat trick scoring just 10 seconds later to put the game away at 7-2. Mike Aviani would get the Chiefs his 23rd goal of the season late in the game to finish the scoring, but for the second straight meeting the Thunderbirds dispatched the Chiefs by a 4 goal margin at home with a 7-3 final. Spokane managed a mere 15 shots on net, a season low, as the Chiefs gave up 3 power play goals for the second straight game to Seattle.
The Chiefs were hoping a change in scenery would get Spokane back on the winning track as the two teams headed West to the ShoWare Center in Kent for the second half of the home and home series on Saturday. Seattle got out to a good start, outshooting the Chiefs 8-2 and scoring midway through the period on an Alexander Delnov goal to take a 1-0 lead. It could have been a much worse for the Chiefs as they killed off 3 Seattle power plays in the first. Spokane would turn things around in the second, generating 5 power plays in the period. The Chiefs would score on their 4th, as Holmberg notched his league leading 33rd goal of the year at 17:36 to tie the game at one after two periods.
The game would come down to the final 20 minutes, and it didn't start well for Spokane as a turnover in the Chiefs zone led to a goal from the blue line from Ethan Bear just 2:10 in to give Seattle a 2-1 lead. The Thunderbirds had a chance to extend the lead on a power play, but Helewka would force the puck free from Bear in front of the Seattle net, and Connor Chartier fired home his 6th of the year shorthanded would tie the game at two 5:05 into the period. Seattle would get another power play chance on yet another questionable call on Helewka, and would take advantage when Ryan Gropp slid a backhander through Williams pads at 10:20 to give the T-Birds the lead again at 3-2. Spokane would get a power play less than 4 minutes later, but would fail to score. Seattle would wrap up the game on an empty netter when they scored with too many men on the ice in the final minute capping a less than stellar night for the referees and a 4-2 Seattle win.
The last defeat to Seattle was far and away the toughest to swallow as Spokane outplayed Seattle for the first time in 3 games, outshooting the Thunderbirds 30-22, but critical mental mistakes at the worst possible times doomed Spokane in this contest. Now the Chiefs have fallen to 4th place in the U.S. Division, 2 points back of Seattle and just a point ahead of Tri City. Spokane now heads into the final week of the first half of the regular season as they will take on Everett twice and Prince George. The Chiefs will host the Silvertips and PG on Wednesday and Saturday, before heading to Everett on Sunday to wrap up the week.
It's a huge week for the Chiefs, as they can put themselves back into third or fade into last place going into the 11 day holiday break. No doubt the team wants to feel good about themselves as they refresh themselves before heading into the second half of the season. Wednesday's and Friday's games with Everett and Prince George will be at the Arena at 7:05pm. Saturday's game with PG is also the annual teddy bear toss night, so bring your bears to toss on the ice. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA Wednesday beginning with the pre-game show at 6:30pm. Saturday's game will be on 790 KJRB due to Gonzaga playing with the pre-game at 6:30pm. Sunday's game will be back on 1510 at 4:05pm from Everett and the pre-game show will be at 3:30. Let's hope the Chiefs finish up strong and we hope to see you at the rink!