Spokane Chiefs Blog: Mixed results
Posted on October 28, 2013 at 9:43 PM
It was a rare week for the Chiefs as they only played two games this past weekend, with both of them at home to wrap up a season high 5 game home stand. It was certainly a nice break for the team as the Chiefs got to actually get full practice times for the first time since the season began in late September. It was a good thing too as the team was to welcome two teams playing well coming into the Spokane Arena in Brandon and Portland. Brandon had won two in a row and were coming off an impressive 6-3 win over a Medicine Hat team that was rated as one of the top 10 teams in the latest Canadian Junior Hockey poll. Spokane meantime entered the game as the top rated team in the WHL, coming in at #3 in the latest poll, and had won 2 of 3 on their homestand. The Chiefs though, had lost their last time out, as they dropped a listless 4-1 decision to Victoria the previous Saturday night.
The first period against the Wheat Kings got off to a good enough start for the Chiefs as Colton Bobyk one timed a loose puck after a turnover in the Brandon zone at 5:53 of the period to score his first career goal and give Spokane a 1-0 lead after one. The Chiefs didn't generate a lot of offense in the period, putting just 4 shots on goal. That would change quickly in the second period.
Spokane was on the power play to start the period and scored just a minute in when Mike Aviani converted a Mitch Holmberg pass to make it 2-0 Chiefs. The assist extended Holmberg's point scoring streak to 14 in a row and he would add his 2nd point of the night at 4:14 of the second when Adam Helewka scored in first game back from a month long leg injury as Spokane took a 3-0 lead. The Chiefs got off 13 shots in the second and would take the initiative again in the third.
Riley Whittingham fired home a one timer just 3:13 into the third as Spokane led it 4-0. Liam Stewart, who was also coming back from injury, would go on a breakaway at 4:58 to put the Chiefs in control at 5-0. Holmberg would notch his league leading 17th goal of the year on the power play at 6:19 to make it a 6-0 game, and when Keanu Yamamoto scored his first career goal at 13:23, the Chiefs had wrapped up the contest. The only thing to be decided was whether goalie Eric Williams would pick up his 2nd shutout of the season. A rash of penalties on Spokane over the final half of the period would lead to 5 Brandon power play chances, and they would convert at 16:47 of the third to break up the shutout and conclude a 7-1 win for the Chiefs. Spokane would get outshot on the night 36-28, but went an impressive 2-4 on the power play and 5-6 on the penalty kill. Reid Gow picked up a career high 4 assists as Spokane took a one point lead in the U.S. Division.
The team right behind the Chiefs, the defending league champion Portland Winterhawks, would come into the Arena the next night riding a league high 7 game winning streak. Portland had won 3 straight on a 4 games in 5 nights road trip. The two teams had met earlier in the month of October, with Portland racing out to a 4 goal first period on their way to a 6-4 victory. It looked like another disasterous first period was in the works for Spokane when Brendan Leipsic scored just 51 seconds into the game to put Portland up 1-0. The Chiefs would come back when Stewart scored on a rebound at 5:04 of the period to even the game back up at one. It looked like the game would be even after one, but Spokane would cough up the puck in neutral ice, leading to an odd man rush that Taylor Leier would finish off at 18:16 of the period to give Portland a 2-1 lead after one.
The second period would become a battle of power play units as the two teams exchanged power play goals. Portland scored at 2:15 but Mike Aviani would score his 14th of the year, and 7th on the power play, which leads the league, would bring the Chiefs within 3-2 at 6:39 of the second. Spokane would pull even when Jason Fram would fire home a shot while the Chiefs were on a 5 on 3 power play at 11:59 and the game was tied at 3. The Arena was rockin, but the celebration would end just over 4 minutes later when Leier would score on a backhander on the power play to give the Hawks a 4-3 lead after two. Spokane would play their best period of the game in the third, putting up 15 shots on net, and had two power play chances, but were unable to beat Portland goalie Brendan Burke and fell short 4-3.
Many more times than not, the final score is a just result and it was again in this case. Spokane was not nearly as strong on the puck as Portland in the game, and certainly lost more battles for the loose pucks than they won. It's just ironic that the team would outshoot Portland 15-6 in the third period, but would come up with nothing on the scoreboard. The win would knock the Chiefs out of first place, a point back of Portland and even with Seattle and Everett for second. Now the team heads back on the road for back to back games at Kamloops and Vancouver before finishing the week hosting Portland once again. It will be a challenging week, especially having to drive back all night from Vancouver for the matchup with the Winterhawks. We'll see how tough mentally the team can be in the rematch.
I'll have the call on 1510 KGA Wednesday from Kamloops with the pre-game at 6:30pm and the puck drop at 7pm. Friday's game from Vancouver will have the pre-game at 7pm and the start at 7:30pm, while Saturday's contest will have the pre-game at 6:30pm and puck drop at 7:05pm. Here's hoping the Chiefs bounce back from their loss to Portland and we hope to see you at the rink!