Spokane Chiefs Blog: Back at work
Posted on December 30, 2013 at 7:37 PM
The first half of the Western Hockey League season had ended on a good note for the Chiefs, as they won 3 straight to head into the Christmas break on a very positive note. The big concern you always have is how would the team come back after being away from game action over the previous 11 days. Spokane was in 4th place in the U.S. Division, 6th In the Western Conference and were hoping to keep the momentum going starting the second half of the season to start making a run towards the top of the West.
The Chiefs began the second half with a home and home series with the Kootenay Ice, a team that had beaten Spokane in the two teams only previous meeting. Kootenay knocked off the Chiefs 3-2 in that game in November, scoring 2 power play goals on their way to outshooting Spokane 30-25. Over the previous two years, the team that had scored first and led after two had won the previous 6 contests. Spokane would hope history would hold true as Mike Aviani banged home a rebound on the power play midway through the first to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Reid Gow, who was back in his first game since being injured November 30th at Tri City picked up an assist as did Mitch Holmberg, who notched his league leading 75th point. The Chiefs played real well in the period, outshooting the Ice 16-8 in the first, but a goal by Kootenay's Jaedon Descheneau with just 14 seconds left in the first tied the game at one after the first.
Giving up a goal so late in the period could have put the Chiefs in a funk to start the second, but the exact opposite happened. Jackson Playfair smacked a loose puck in the net just 21 seconds into the period to give Spokane the lead back at 2-1. Kootenay then got a power play with a chance to tie the game, but the Chiefs Blair Oneschuck stole the puck and scored on a breakaway shorthanded almost 6 minutes in to make it 3-1 Spokane. Riley Whittingham then deposited a rebound in the net at 14:18 and the Chiefs had what seemed to be a commanding 4-1 lead late in the second. Kootenay would score two goals in just over a minute and a half though to narrow the lead to 4-3.
The Chiefs Playfair would strike with the goal of the game with just 2 seconds left in the second, as he scored on a rebound to notch his second goal of the night to give Spokane a 5-3 lead after two.
The goal marked the first multi-goal game in Playfair's career and gave the Chiefs a much needed boost heading into the third period. Whittingham would then notch a multi-goal game as he scored midway through the third to give Spokane a 6-3 lead. The Ice would score a goal with just under 4 minutes remaining to cap the scoring, but the Chiefs would register their 4th straight win with a 6-4 win. Spokane outshot Kootenay 38-24 in the game, going 1-4 on the power play and even more importantly a perfect 2-2 on the penalty kill against an Ice team that had played very well with the man advantage the last time the two clubs met.
The teams would head to Spokane the next night for a re-match in the home and home series. Remember the stat about scoring first? On this night, it would be the Ice that would strike first and they would do so on their first shot of the game. Levi Cable's goal midway through the first put Kootenay up 1-0. The Ice then took advantage of their first power play of the night on a goal by Zach McPhee, his second goal in as many games against Spokane, to take a 2-0 advantage after one. The Chiefs had controlled much of the period, outshooting Kootenay 9-4, but the failure to convert offensively and a couple key defensive mistakes cost Spokane big in the first.
The Chiefs would get back in the game, cutting the lead in half midway through the second period on Dominic Zwerger's backhand on a rebound. The second period was Spokane's best of the game, putting up 16 shots on Kootenay goalie MacKenzie Skapski, but the failure to generate rebound chances kept Spokane down by one heading into the third. The Chiefs put up another 12 shots in the third, but were turned away at every chance by Skapski and the Ice defense as Spokane's 4 game win streak came to an end in a 2-1 defeat. Spokane put up 37 shots, holding Kootenay to just 22, but the Chiefs missed the net on a number of chances and failed to get enough net front traffic to disrupt Skapski.
The loss left the Chiefs still in 4th place, 3 points back of Seattle for third, 4 behind Everett for second, and 8 out of first behind Portland. Spokane now faces a formidable week, heading to Tri Cities for the annual New Year's Eve game Tuesday, then hosting Victoria and Everett on Friday and Saturday. Tuesday's game in Tri will be a challenge, as the Americans have dominated the New Year's Eve game over the years. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA beginning with the pre-game show at 6:30pm and the puck drop at 7:05pm. Victoria and Everett are in second place in the B.C.
and U.S. Divisions respectively, and will be huge games as far as the conference standings are concerned. Both games will start at 7:05pm and I'll have the pre-game shows at 6:30pm. Friday's game will be on 1510, while Saturday's will be on 790 KJRB due to the Gonzaga game. We hope to see you at the rink!