Having garnered 5 out of 8 points in a 4 games in 5 nights road trip the previous week, the Chiefs had the 'luxury' to come home for a tilt with the Seattle Thunderbirds before heading out on the road for 3 more road games in 3 nights over the weekend. Spokane had not met with a lot of success against the T-Birds this season, having lost 5 straight, but the last two losses had come in overtime. The last loss was a 1-0 shutout in OT at home, so the Chiefs were first and foremost, hoping to get on the scoreboard before anything else.
Spokane went with Garret Hughson in net, who had played well in three straight relief appearances for starter Eric Williams. The Chiefs were also welcoming back center Mike Aviani, who had sat out the last 3 games due to a suspension for a major penalty suffered in Kamloops the previous week. Spokane was still without centers Blair Oneschuck, Hudson Elyniuk and Liam Stewart, who are all out injured and would miss the week's worth of games. The Thunderbirds were coming off a win at home the night before over Everett 5-3, while the Chiefs had dropped two straight, including a tough 5-4 overtime decision at Everett on Saturday. Spokane was just 4 points back of the second place T-Birds, so a win in regulation on Wednesday would get the Chiefs just two points back with a return meeting in Seattle on Friday.
Spokane would start well in the first, killing off a Seattle power play in the first couple minutes, and then getting going offensively. The Chiefs would end up outshooting the Thunderbirds 13-8 in the period, but a critical mistake by defenseman Cole Wedman in front of the Spokane net would lead to Justin Hickman scoring on a point blank chance 15:50 into the first to give Seattle a 1-0 lead after one. Chiefs fans were hoping that deflating moment wouldn't stay with Spokane going into the second, but unfortunately, the T-Birds jumped right back on the Chiefs early, as Alexander Delnov's one timer on a loose puck beat Hughson at 2:06 of the second to make it 2-0 Seattle. Seattle controlled the rest of the period and when Hickman tipped in a shot from the left wing at 18:38 for his second goal of the night, the Thunderbirds had a 3-0 lead going into the third period.
Loose coverage on a face-off in the Chiefs zone led to another Hickman tally just 2:39 into the third period to cap the scoring as Hickman notched his first career hat trick and Seattle came away with their 6th straight win over Spokane by a score of 4-0. The Chiefs put up 29 shots on Seattle goalie Taran Kozun, but many were from the perimeter and Spokane didn't generate nearrrlyy enough net front traffic to make his night too terribly difficult. It was Kozun's second straight shutout of the Chiefs in the Spokane Arena, and the Thunderbirds now enjoyed a 6 point lead over Spokane as the two teams headed over Snoqualmie Pass for the re-match Friday night in Kent.
Eric Williams would be back in net for the Chiefs, and he and the team came out sharp on Friday. Williams turned aside a couple of point blank chances for Seattle in the first, while the Chiefs started the game outshooting the T-Birds 11-1. Spokane couldn't find the net on Kozun though, and the game would be scoreless after one. The Chiefs started the second on the power play but couldn't convert. Seattle would have no such problem in the period.
The Thunderbirds scored on their first power play of the second as Matt Barzal scored on a rush up the right wing just over 6 minutes into the period to make it 1-0 Seattle. Then the T-Birds Brendan Troock put a shot off Chiefs defenseman Matt Sozanski in the net at 12:14 to put Seattle up 2-0. Sozanski also drew a slashing penalty on the goal, and when Ryan Gropp one-timed a Barzal pass at 13:07, Seattle had a 3-0 lead heading into the third period. Gropp would cap the scoring with an open back-hander just over 6 minutes into the third to give Seattle a 4-0 lead.
Kozun and the Seattle defense turned away 3 Spokane power plays and 9 Chiefs shots in the third, and for the third straight game, Kozun had shut out the Chiefs. He now has 92 saves and 3 shutouts against Spokane since being acquired from Kamloops January 10th. Spokane is now 0-5-2 against Seattle this year and is 8 points back of Seattle for the last home ice spot in the West. With just 17 games left in the season, and just one meeting with Seattle left, it's starting to look more and more like Spokane will start the playoffs on the road this year.
The more immediate concern though, is stopping a 4 game losing streak, the longest of the season for the Chiefs. Spokane then headed over Snoqualmie to the Tri Cities, where an Americans team that had been embarrassed on home ice by Portland 10-3 on Friday, awaited. There was plenty of snow awaiting too, as it snowed most of the night, and then started up non-stop again as the team headed to the rink in Tri. The Chiefs seemed to be stuck in the snow to start too, as a Braden Purtill rebound goal just 1:28 into the game gave the Americans a 1-0 lead. The Chiefs would get even though when Colton Bobyk scored his 3rd goal in 4 games with a shot from the wing at 10:02. Despite getting just 5 shots in the first period, the game was 1-1 going into the second.
Mike Aviani would snap a nearly month long goal scoring drought with his 31st at 8:57 of the second period to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead. Marcus Messier then notched his first goal as a Chief with a tip of a Reid Gow shot midway through the period to make it 3-1 Spokane. Tri City then took advantage of a highhhly questionable penalty on the Chiefs Riley Whittingham, and Beau McCue's power play goal at 16:20 brought Tri City within 3-2 after two periods. Chiefs goalie Eric Williams would turn out to save the day early in the third when Williams turned aside a Lucas Nickles breakaway that would have tied the game at 3.
Spokane would turn the game around less than minute later when Dominic Zwerger scored on a backhander through the pads of goalie Eric Comrie to give Spokane a 4-2 lead. Carter Proft would then tip a Jason Fram shot in at 7:48 to give the Chiefs a 5-2 advantage. Adam Helewka would make it 6-2 at 11:28 and Keanu Yamamoto would cap Spokane's scoring with a rebound of his own shot at 12:16 to put the Chiefs firmly in control at 7-2.
A late power play goal from Tri City couldn't spoil the day for Spokane though, as they secured their 6th win in 8 tries over the Americans 7-3. Fram finished with 3 assists on the night, giving him 40 for the season. Zwerger had a goal and an assist in the 4 goal third, as the 7 goals matched a season high in a game for Spokane. Needless to say, the frustrations of the lack of scoring were washed away with the 7 goal explosion. Now the big question was, could the team continue that offensive success in Everett the next afternoon. The Chiefs had lost their first game in 7 tries against the Silvertips the last time the two teams met the previous Saturday.
Spokane fell on a power play goal in overtime and were hoping to avenge that loss in their final visit to Everett this season. The team endured a brutalll trip through snow and ice on the way from Tri City to Everett, getting in the middle of the night for a 4:05pm start. The team didn't seem to be too affected by the journey, not as much as the officials. Let's just say the performance put on my the two referees, and particularly by the two linesman in the first, was as poor a job as I've seen this season. Missed icings, blown off sides or lack of calling them, coupled with penalty calls that would make your head spin like Linda Blair's in 'The Exorcist', were a part of the fun of the first. It didn't help the Chiefs they fell behind 1-0 after one either on a 5 on 3 power play goal by the Silvertips late in the period.
The Chiefs had a chance to tie on a 5 on 3 power play of their own in the last 1:04 of the first, but failed to score as goalie Austin Lotz robbed Mitch Holmberg of a goal. Spokane would even the game midway through the second period though when Riley Whittingham tipped home a Colton Bobyk shot at 8:31. Everett would re-gain the lead at 17:15 when Josh Winquist scored on a feed from behind the Chiefs net after Spokane failed to clear the puck out of their defensive zone. Spokane had another power play chance early in the third to try to tie, but once again failed to convert. Winquist would garner his second tally of the game on another feed from behind the net just 2 minutes into the third to make it 3-1 Everett.
Spokane would finally get something going offensively late in the third. Marcus Messier tipped home his second goal in as many games off an Adam Helewka shot at 13:51 to cut the lead to 3-2. The Chiefs would get their 6th and final power play chance late in the third, but would fail to score for the 6th straight time and Everett would hang on for a 3-2 win. It was the Tips second straight win over Spokane in the last 8 days in Everett as the Chiefs now lead the season series 6-2. It was a tough way to end the road trip, especially in a game that was veryyy winnable for Spokane.
The good news is though, that the Chiefs will return home to the Spokane Arena for 8 of their next 9 games. Spokane will open a 4 game home stand with 3 games in the next week. First up is the #1 team in the latest CHL poll, the Kelowna Rockets. The last time these two played, it resulted in Spokane's most dramatic victory of the year, a third period rally from a 5-2 deficit to score a 6-5 shootout win. Let's hope for more of the same on Wednesday night. The week will finish up with Tri City and Everett coming to town on Saturday and Sunday games at the Arena.
I'll have the call on Wednesday's game with Kelowna on 1510 KGA beginning with the pre-game show at 6:30pm and the puck drop at 7:05pm. Saturday's game will be on 790 KJRB against Tri City with the pre-game at 6:30pm and the start at 7:05pm. Sunday's game with Everett will be back on 1510 KGA with the pre-game show starting up at 4:30pm and a 5:05pm puck drop at the Arena. Here's to hoping the Chiefs find home ice to their liking and we hope to see you at the rink supporting the boys!