After coming back from Christmas break with 3 1/3 games in 4 nights, the 1/3 coming in the postponed Tri-City New Year's Eve ice failure, the Chiefs got a bit of a more relaxing schedule with just 2 games last weekend as they entertained Lethbridge and Everett at the Spokane Arena.
The Chiefs were still without captain Jared Cowen, who spent the weekend relaxing after playing his entire Christmas break for Team Canada at the World Junior Tournament. Spokane was also without defenseman Tanner Mort who was nursing some minor injuries he's played through. Spokane would also welcome back former defensemen Michael Reddington and Landon Oslanski, who were traded to the Hurricanes in the Kyle Beach trade last season.
Winners of four straight, the Chiefs didn't look as sharp in the first period.as the team that won at Kelowna the previous Saturday.Spokane did control the puck, but only managed two shots on net in the first. Despite the lack of offense, the two teams were scoreless after one as Spokane limited the Hurricanes to just 7 shots in the first.
The Chiefs didn't take long to get things going in the second as Tyler Johnson took a face off from center ice, went down the right wing and put one off a Lethbridge defenseman into the net just 25 seconds into the period to make it 1-0 Spokane. The Chiefs would then tack on a Dominick Uher rebound goal at 13:27 to make it 2-0. Uher then put a pass on the tape of Kenton Miller in the slot and Miller would put it home to give the Chiefs a 3-0 lead after two. Uher has been playing with Johnson and Levko Koper, but midway through the second, Coach Don Nachbaur put Uher with Miller and Steve Kuhn and the combination was lights out in the period.
In the third, Miller hit Blake Gal at center ice in stride and Gal flew past Reddington and backhanded home his 11th of the year to make it 4-0 Spokane. Anthony Bardaro and Mitch Holmberg then scored 20 seconds apart later in the period to cap the scoring. Goalie James Reid did the rest, turning aside all 21 shots he faced to pick up his 4th shutout of the season and 13th of his career, 2nd all-time in Chiefs history. He now needs two more to tie Dustin Tokarski's record of 15.
In all, a good win for the boys, as Uher, Gal and Miller all had a goal and an assist to lead the way offensively. With five wins in a row under their belts, the team hoped to match their longest win streak of the year against their U.S. Division rivals, the Everett Silvertips.
The first period was much like the game before as neither team mustered any serious offensive threat, nor were either able to score. The Chiefs did kill off two Everett power plays in the first, and found themselves back on the penalty kill early in the second. Johnson executed a perfect give and go with Koper and Koper roofed it home shorthanded 2:15 into the period to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Special teams would come through again later in the second, as Johnson took a Koper pass in the right circle and rifled it home midway through the period to make it 2-0 Spokane after two.
Just as quickly as the Chiefs took the lead, the Silvertips answered in the third. Landon Ferraro tipped in a pass just 35 seconds into the third to make it a 2-1 game. Then Brennan Yadlowski's power play goal at 3:41 tied the game at two. At this point, Coach Nachbaur took a time out and it really seemed to settle the rattled Chiefs down. Midway through the period, Uher outworked a Silvertip for a loose puck, fed a wide open Brady Brassart in the right circle, and Brassart did the rest, scoring his 5th of the season to put Spokane back up 3-2. Johnson would then get his second of the night on an empty netter with 2.9 seconds left to cap a 4-2 win. Johnson had a three point night, while Brendan Kichton had three assists on the game.
It wasn't pretty, but the Chiefs found a way to win the second straight night without being on top of their game, and that my friends, is the mark of what good teams do. It's impossible to play at the highest level every game over 72 contests, but the teams that win even when they're not at their best end up playing the longest.
Now the team will put their six game win streak on the line in what may be the toughest week yet during this season. The team is now four points out of first after Portland's shootout win over Everett on Sunday and now Spokane must head to Portland to take on the first place Winterhawks Wednesday night. The Chiefs will then play three games in three nights, beginning with a home and home with the Central Division leading Kootenay Ice Friday in Cranbrook and then back home Saturday for the Outdoor Classic at Avista Stadium. After that game, the team will head to Everett to play the Silvertips Sunday. It's going to be a realll challenge for this team. Four games in five nights. then a game in Chilliwack the following Tuesday against the Bruins after the Everett game. Tough opponents, tough travel, and little time to rest. The team will get Cowen back in the lineup, so that will really help with the defensive end of the ice.
As for Saturday's Outdoor Classic game, everyone is asking me, "Are you looking forward to it?" As far as the historical part of it, yes. As far as the weather end? Absolutely not. The press box in Avista is open air, so I'll be out in the elements for close to 4 hours in teen to low 20 degree temps. Last I checked, I can't use gloves to do my job, so my hands are going to pay the price big time. It will be fun to call the game, but instead of getting to warm up afterwards at home, we're hitting the bus to make the trip to Everett for the following day's game. It doesn't sound high on the fun meter to this guy.
The trading deadline also passed on Monday, with the Chiefs not making any deals. Some fans may ask why, especially with Portland and Tri City making big deals to get scoring up front. Spokane is in quite a good spot. The team is young, so it will have many of the same players back next year. To get a good player, the team would have had to give up two or three of their young talent, so why jeopardize next year or the year after that? Especially when thisss year's team has more than a shot of beating those teams with the current lineup. It remains to be seen what happens, but I agree with standing pat. This year's team chemistry is very good, and should be good for the next couple as well.
The Chiefs take on Portland Wednesday at 7pm with the pregame at 6:30pm on 1510 KGA. Friday's game in Cranbrook against the Ice will be at 6pm with the pregame at 5:30pm on 1510. Saturday's game will be at 1pm at Avista Stadium, with the pregame at 12:30pm on both KGA and 790 KJRB. When the Gonzaga game starts at 3pm, the game will only be on 790, so make a note. Sunday, the Chiefs and Tips will be at 5pm, with the pregame starting things off at 4:30m on 1510. A lot to keep track of, but if I can do it, you certainly can.
Hope to see you at the stadium on Saturday and be a part of history!