Posted on November 12, 2013 at 12:57 AM
Tuesday, Nov 12 at 12:57 AM
The road has been pretty kind to the Chiefs thus far, as Spokane has built one of the top records in the Western Conference in large part due to their 7-3 road mark over the first month plus of the regular season. After dropping 2 of 3 at home, the Chiefs got back on board the bus for their final half of their Central Division trip this year as they headed to Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Kootenay for 3 games in 4 nights last week.
First up were the Central leaders, the Medicine Hat Tigers, who had just lost once in regulation at home in 9 games entering their contest with the Chiefs. Spokane knew it was going to be a difficult task and that became apparent just 2:02 in when the Tigers scored on goalie Eric Williams to take a 1-0 lead. Medicine Hat threatened to go up by 2 when they went on the power play midway through the period, but Mike Aviani got the Chiefs right back in it when he scored his second short handed goal of the season at 9:31 to tie the game at one. The Tigers would convert on their next power play though as they re-took the lead at 2-1 late in the period. Just as it looked like it would be a Medicine Hat advantage after one, Riley Whittingham poked in a loose puck in the net from the crease at 18:31 of the period to tie the game at 2 after one.
Spokane would get the only goal of the second on Aviani's second tally of the night, scoring on the power play at 7:43 as the Chiefs took a 3-2 lead after two. The lead didn't last long though, as the Tigers got 2 goals just 16 seconds apart in the first 3 and a half minutes of the third to re-take the lead at 4-3. The Chiefs would get back in the game on Adam Helewka's power play goal at 13:57 to even the game at 4 and send the game to overtime.
The Chiefs looked to have the game won on the power play early in the OT on a Reid Gow goal, but the referee waved off the goal, citing Aviani as not allowing the goalie Marek Langhamer to make a play on the puck. Medicine Hat won the ensuing face-off, but Mitch Holmberg stripped the puck free and snapped a shot under the cross bar at 1:58 of overtime to give Spokane a 5-4 win in an extremely hard fought game. It was a great start to the road trip as the Chiefs got a day off before heading to Lethbridge for their only matchup of the year with the Hurricanes.
Unlike the Tigers who were at the top of the East standings, Lethbridge was at the bottom, having won just 2 of 19 games and the Canes were on a 7 game losing streak coming in. Which is precisely the reason I was wary of this game, as you usually worry about overlooking a team that has struggled after an emotional win in your previous game. The start of the game was not exactly easing my fears either, as the Hurricanes scored on a power play goal late in the first to grab a 1-0 lead after one.
The Chiefs would pull back even at one on a Carter Proft goal just 2:03 into the second period, but Lethbridge would answer just over 3 1/2 minutes later on another power play goal to take a 2-1 lead. Spokane would then score on their only power play of the period when Mitch Holmberg scored with just 1 second remaining on the man advantage at 11:27 of the second to tie the game at 2 after two periods. Let's just say the early part of the third period was going to be critical for Spokane as Lethbridge was gaining more confidence as the game went along.
Fortunately for the Chiefs, the third started well, as Holmberg would score his second power play goal of the night at 3:27 to give Spokane the lead, as it turns out for good, at 3-2. Helewka would then score at 5:58 to give the Chiefs an insurance goal at 4-2, and when Holmberg capped his 2nd hat trick of the year at 9:29, Spokane was in control at 5-2. Jackson Playfair would cap the scoring with his 2nd goal of the year at 11:49 and the Chiefs used their 4 goal 3rd to a 6-2 victory. The win came with a sigh of relief as the game could have easily gone the other way with a sub-par third period from the Chiefs.
With 2 wins in 2 tries, Spokane hoped for the road trip trifecta as they traveled to Cranbrook, British Columbia and their first meeting of the year with the Kootenay Ice. The two teams meet 5 times during the season, a unique arrangement between a team from the East and West, who normally play each other only once. The Ice had been shutout at home 3-0 by Red Deer the night before, so there was no doubt in my mind they would be coming out on all cylinders against Spokane.
Once again, the start for the Chiefs was not a good one, as the Ice scored just 10 seconds into their first power play of the night to take a 1-0 lead after one. Spokane would come right back starting the second though when Holmberg fired home a shot inside the blue line only 41 seconds into the second period to tie the game at one. Kootenay would shoot right back in front on a tip in by Levi Cable at 5:16 of the stanza to go back ahead 2-1. The turning point of the contest would come in the final minutes of the period. With the Chiefs shorthanded, Holmberg broke free for a partial breakaway, but was denied by the glove of goalie Wyatt Hoflin. Austin Vetterl got the rebound, skated up ice and snapped a shot past Williams with just 1 second left on the power play at 18:49 to give the Ice a 3-1 lead and certainly all the momentum of the game.
Spokane fought back in the third, as Mike Aviani tipped a Holmberg shot in on the power play with 8:30 left to draw the Chiefs back within 3-2. The Chiefs had a good look in the final 10 seconds on a 6 on 4 advantage after a Kootenay penalty, but Holmberg's shot went wide and the Chiefs ended up on the short end of a 3-2 decision. Spokane managed just 25 shots in the game, and went 4-6 on the penalty kill. Despite the loss, it was still a very successful road trip, as the Chiefs have now gone 4-2 against a strong Central Division.
The nice part of the schedule is that the team now gets to play 8 of its' next 10 games in the Spokane Arena, beginning with a pair of games this weekend against Prince George and Regina. It's the first meeting with PG, and the only contest with the Pats this year, as Regina is the 3rd team from the East Division to come to Spokane. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA beginning with the pre-game shows at 6:30pm and the puck drop at 7:05pm. Let's hope the home cooking is to the Chiefs liking and we hope to see you at the rink!