Posted on January 27, 2014 at 12:45 AM
With two tough losses on the road to Tri City and Portland behind them the previous weekend, the Chiefs were hoping the friendly confines of the Spokane Arena would help turn them around this past week. The schedule was a bit kinder this past week as well, as Spokane only had two games to worry about as they hosted Moose Jaw and Tri City. Moose Jaw was the fifth team from the Eastern Division to come to the Arena, as Spokane had gone 3-0-0-1, with the only loss in a shootout to Regina. The Warriors had a tough road swing through the U.S. Division the past week, losing all 4 through the U.S., with two of the losses in shootouts.
Friday's game was in front of a crowd of over 6,000 and the home crowd couldn't have been too pleased at what they saw in the first, as the hangover of the previous 5-0 loss at Portland seemed to be hanging over the Chiefs. Moose Jaw's Tanner Eberle's rebound goal at 8:50 of the first period would give the Warriors a 1-0 lead after one as Moose Jaw outshot Spokane 10-6. Fortunately for the home fans, the Chiefs would come to life in the second. Riley Whittingham's goal from the right wing 6:06 into the period would tie the game at one and get the team and the crowd back into the game. Keanu Yamamoto would then score on a rebound at 14:41 to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead after two.
As it would turn out, Yamamoto's goal would be all Spokane would need. Goalie Eric Williams was as sharp as he's been in any game this year, as he stopped several one on one chances by the Warriors to keep the Chiefs on top by one heading into the third. Spokane's penalty kill was also effective, turning back 5 Moose Jaw power plays through 40 minutes.. The Chiefs PK unit would be called upon again in the third, and once again Spokane would deny the Warrior power play to preserve the 2-1 lead. Spokane would seal the win when Mitch Holmberg scored his league leading 43rd goal of the year into an empty net with 10 seconds left to cap a 3-1 win. The goal snapped a 4 game scoreless streak for Holmberg, his longest of the season.
Williams was fantastic, turning away 24 of 25 Moose Jaw shots, as the Chiefs got two points that they perhaps probably didn't earn with their overall team effort. It just goes to show what a goaltender can do to affect a game, much like a starting pitcher in baseball. Williams would get the start again the next night as the Chiefs hosted the rival Tri City Americans. Tri City had shut down Spokane in a 3-1 win the previous Saturday down in Kennewick and was carrying a 4 game win streak to town after beating snapping Seattle's 7 game win streak with a 4-1 the previous evening.
Saturday's game would be back and forth in the first period as Williams and Americans goalie Eric Comrie would take turns shutting down the other team. Spokane would get the first break of the game when Tri took 3 minor penalties at the same time late in the first, giving the Chiefs a 5 on 3 power play for two minutes. Spokane didn't waste the chance as Reid Gow snapped home a shot at 16:38 for his second goal of the year to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead after one. Spokane would control the game offensively in the second, outshooting Tri 10-3, but neither team was able to score as the game remained 1-0 after two.
Comrie was as sharp as Williams, turning back 11 more chances from the Chiefs in the third as he kept the Spokane offense at bay. Tri City would get even late in the third when Brian Williams shot from below the goal line banked off Eric Williams and in the net at 14:12 to tie the game at one and send the game to overtime. Neither team generated much in overtime as just 3 shots got on net, sending the two teams to a shootout for the second time in 7 games this year. Spokane had lost the first time around November 30th in Tri when Comrie shut down the Chiefs in a 2-1 win.
This time around, Holmberg would beat Comrie in round one to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. Tri City's Parker Bowles would also score in round one as the shootout was 1-1 after one. Neither team would score in rounds 2 or 3 as Williams turned aside Phillip Tot, who had a chance to win the game in round three. In the 4th round, the Chiefs Hudson Elyniuk scored, making it 2-1 Spokane. Brian Williams would counter for the Ams though, as the shootout went to round 5 tied at 2. Mike Aviani would score on Comrie with a backhander to give the Chiefs a 3-2 lead, and Williams would seal the win on a save on the Americans Lucas Nickles in the 5th round to seal the 2-1 win for Spokane.
It was the perfect turnaround weekend for Spokane coming off the 3 losses in 4 games the previous week. It also gives the team some much needed momentum as they head out on their toughest....and longest...road trip of the season. The Chiefs will play 7 of their next 8 away from Spokane, including 4 straight this week through the Western Conference. The trip will start with a visit to the Kamloops Blazers in a game televised on Root Sports Tuesday night at 7pm. The next night Spokane will take on the #1 team in the CHL, the Kelowna Rockets at 7:05pm. Friday night, the Chiefs will look for their first win in 7 meetings with the U.S. Division leading Portland Winterhawks, as the two meet at 7:35pm. Saturday, the Chiefs wrap up the road trip as they face the Everett Silvertips at 7:05pm.
It's an extremelyyy difficult road trip, but there is no doubt the Chiefs will see where they stand with the top two teams in the conference in Kelowna and Portland. I'll have the call Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on 1510 KGA. The pre-game shows on Tuesday and Wednesday will be at 6:30pm and Friday's will be at 7pm. Saturday's game will be on 790 KJRB due to Gonzaga's basketball game. Pre-game is at 6:30pm and the puck drop at 7:05pm. Let's hope the Chiefs keep up the winning and we hope to see you on the radio!