Posted on January 15, 2014 at 4:34 PM
2014 had started well for the Chiefs, with back to back wins at home to extend their winning streak to 3 straight. Spokane would wrap up their 3 game homestand with a matchup with the last place team in the Western Conference, the Kamloops Blazers. Friday's game was played on trade deadline day, and the Chiefs made a deal, sending forward Jackson Playfair to Tri Cities for forward Marcus Messier. It made for an emotional day for the team, as well as for the Blazers, who ended up skating 2 forwards short and with just one goalie after their trade deadline deals.
Messier would make his debut the day he was traded as he started the game against Kamloops. After a slow start in the first, the Chiefs would get on the board when Dominic Zwerger scored his 8th of the year from Hudson Elyniuk, who got his first assist as a Chief, and Riley Whittingham at 9:32 to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. The advantage didn't last long though, as the Blazers scored just 30 seconds later to tie the game at one. It set in motion a back and forth game for most of the contest. The Chiefs would regain the lead late in the first when Adam Helewka scored his 16th of the season from Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani at 16:22 to make it 2-1 Spokane after one.
The second period started with 4 on 4 hockey as the two teams drew matching minor penalties at the end of the first. Collin Shirley scored for the Blazers just 1:20 into the second to tie the game at two, but Reid Gow scored his first of the year just 26 seconds later from Connor Chartier to get the Chiefs back on top 3-2. Shirley wasn't done though and scored his 2nd of the game at 4:42 to pull Kamloops even at 3-3. Whittingham would get the lead back for Spokane at 16:58 with his 10th of the season and the Chiefs headed to the third with a 4-3 lead.
The score reflected how even the game had been and whoever won the third period would end up winning the game. The two teams went back and forth in the third, until Kamloops went on the power play midway through the third. When it looked like the Blazers would draw even, Holmberg stole the puck and scored on a shorthanded breakaway at 13:09 to give the Chiefs a huge insurance goal and a 5-3 lead. Spokane would wrap up the win when Chartier scored on an empty netter from Elyniuk at 18:46 to finish off a 6-3 win. Spokane would outshoot Kamloops 30-25 and each team only had one power play as the game only had 4 penalties called.
It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but it was a win nonetheless, as Spokane had won 4 straight and had moved into a tie for second in the division with Everett. The Chiefs were now only 3 points back of first place Portland as they headed back on the road to face Seattle. It was the first of a home and home series between the two as the two teams would play again in Spokane on Tuesday. The Thunderbirds were a perfect 3-0 against the Chiefs this season, winning by a combined 16-6 score in the three games. Spokane's closest game came in the last contest, losing 4-2 in Seattle a month earlier.
One thing the Chiefs had not done in the previous 3 meetings was get off to a good start. The Chiefs were having to come from behind in every game and with less than satisfactory results. On this night though, it would be Spokane that would strike first on the scoreboard. Mike Aviani took a Holmberg pass and scored on the power play with just 1:04 left in the first period to give the Chiefs their first lead over Seattle this year at 1-0 at the end of the first. Spokane was outshot 10-4 in the period and had killed off 3 T-Bird power plays in taking the early advantage.
In the second, Seattle would answer on the power play as Alexander Delnov scored at 2:57 to tie the game at one. Connor Chartier would notch a goal for the second straight night as he scored his 8th of the year, tipping a Cole Wedman shot at 5:53 to make it 2-1 Spokane. Liam Stewart also picked up an assist as it looked like the Chiefs would take the lead to the third. Spokane would take a double minor penalty from Carter Proft for spearing late in the second though, and Seattle would capitalize as Roberts Lipsbergs goal at 16:06 would even the score at two heading into the third period.
Chartier would put Spokane back up 3-2 on his second goal of the night at 6:53 of the third. The Chiefs would kill off 2 more Seattle power plays in the third, going 6-8 on the night to keep the lead late into the period. Seattle would pull their goalie in the final 2.5 minutes to get an extra skater on and the move would pay off as Lipsbergs scored his second of the night at 17:46 to tie the game at three and send the game to overtime. Spokane had gone 5-0 in overtime, while Seattle was 2-2, so the advantage seemed to be with the Chiefs heading to OT. So much for records though, as Delnov took a pass from Lipsbergs at the Spokane blue line and slapped home his second goal of the night 2:14 in to give Seattle their 4th straight win over the Chiefs 4-3.
It was a game up for the taking for Spokane, but the Chiefs failed to secure the two points as Seattle pulled into a tie with Spokane and Everett for second in the division. Now Spokane returned home to the Arena hoping to avenge the Saturday loss and move past Seattle in the standings.
Tuesday's game was the last game at the Spokane Arena for the next 10 days, and with a 3 game road trip over the weekend looming, a win looked pretty important for the Chiefs. Both teams had opportunities to score in the first, as Seattle had 3 power plays and Spokane 2, but neither team was able to beat Chiefs goalie Eric Williams or Seattle netminder Taran Kozun, who was making his debut with the Thunderbirds after being acquired from Kamloops at the trade deadline. In the second, Seattle got the only two power play chances, but Spokane outshot the T-Birds 8-7 in the period. Both teams failed to score though as the two clubs headed to the third 0-0.
It was just the third time the Chiefs had gone to the third in a scoreless game, the previous two against Everett. Spokane had won both of those games, so if history proved correct, things looked good for the Chiefs. Spokane would get the only two power plays of the third, but the WHL's leading power play came up empty, going 0-4 on the contest. Spokane also held Seattle off the board as the Chiefs held the T-Birds to just 6 shots in the third as the two teams went through 60 minutes without a score. For the second time this year, the Chiefs went to overtime in a scoreless game. Spokane controlled most of the overtime, putting up 4 of the first 5 shots and keeping the puck the majority of the time in the Seattle zone.
Unfortunately for Spokane, Seattle's second shot would end the game. The Thunderbirds Ryan Gropp sent a shot from inside the Chiefs blue line and Williams looked to have the puck corralled in his pads, but as the referee looked to blow the whistle, the puck trickled through and crossed the goal line with just 44.7 seconds left in OT to give the Chiefs a 1-0 defeat. It was the first time Spokane was shut out this season as Kozun turned aside all 28 Chiefs shots. The win was also the 5th straight for Seattle over Spokane this year, and put the Chiefs a point back of the Thunderbirds for second in the U.S. Division.
Spokane now faces the daunting task of playing 3 games in 3 nights on the road through the division this weekend. The trip starts Friday in Everett, goes to Tri Cities on Saturday and finishes at division leading Portland Sunday. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA Friday with the pre-game show at 7pm, and the puck drop at 7:35pm. Saturday's game will be on 790 KJRB due to the Gonzaga game, as the pre-game is at 6:30pm and the puck drop at 7:05pm. Sunday's game from Portland will be back on 1510 KGA with a 3:30pm start and a 3pm pre-game show. Let's hope the Chiefs get back on the winning track and we hope to see you on the radio!