Posted on October 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM
After matching the best start in team history with a 4-0 record, the Chiefs set out to establish a new mark in Portland as they took on the defending league champion Winterhawks. Spokane didn't have a lot of success against Portland last year, going just 2-7 in the season series, so the Chiefs knew they were going to have a tough go of it in the Rose City. Little did the Chiefs know just how tough it was going to be in the first period. The Hawks would score on a Nic Petan rebound just 3:10 into the game to take a 1-0 lead. Spokane appeared to bounce back when Riley Whittingham scored on a Mitch Holmberg rebound at 4:17 to tie it up at one. Just when it looked like the Chiefs would settle things down, the Winterhawks came right back and scored 3 goals in just 2:09 on goalie Garret Hughson to take a 4-1 lead after one.
Spokane and Hughson didn't fold though, as Blair Oneschuk got the lead cut in half in the second period with a shorthanded goal midway through the period. The Chiefs also killed off 4 Portland power plays in the period and looked to grab the momentum of the game. In the third though, the Hawks would capitalize on their 7th power play of the game to take a 5-2 advantage. Spokane didn't roll over though, as the Chiefs got back to back power play tallies from Connor Chartier and Jason Fram just 1:14 apart late in the third to cut the lead to 5-4. The Chiefs then pulled Hughson from net in the final minute and a half and had two chances to tie it, but Keanu Yamamoto's shot went high of the net and Holmberg's chance was gloved by Portland goalie Brenden Burke with 37 seconds left to stymie the Chiefs last chance. Petan would put in an empty netter with 18 seconds left to cap a 6-4 Portland win and hand the Chiefs their first loss of the season.
So the record start will remain 4 wins in Spokane franchise history. The team didn't have a long time to lick their wounds either as the Chiefs had to head to Everett to take on a Silvertips team that was off to a 3-1 start. The two teams slugged it out in a get to know the opponent 20 minutes in the first as the two teams didn't generate a lot of great offensive chances in a scoreless period. The second period though would pick up, with the Silvertips getting 3 of the 4 power play chances of the period, but Spokane goalie Eric Williams was outstandinggg in the stanza, turning away all 11 shots. None more spectacular than the save in the crease while on his back sliding across and gloving a backhander from the Tips Dawson Leedahl. It turned out to be a game saving save from Williams who would turn in, in my opinion, his best game in net as a Chief.
The game would remain scoreless in the third, as Williams upped his game, turning aside 13 Everett shots, while the Chiefs managed just 3 shots on goal in a period spent in the Chiefs end. Spokane would survive the third though as the game would head to overtime with neither team on the scoreboard. Getting to overtime seemed to give the Chiefs a lift as Spokane didn't give up a shot to the Silvertips. Spokane would also get the offense going as Mitch Holmberg picked off a pass, fed Liam Stewart down the left wing, and Stewart did the rest, snapping a shot past Everett goalie Austin Lotz at 2:54 of overtime to give the Chiefs a huge 1-0 overtime win. Williams was the star of the game, turning away 31 Everett shots and giving Spokane a huge 2 points on the road as the team headed home to face the B.C. Division leading Kelowna Rockets.
Kelowna was on a roll, having just swept 2 games from Portland, outscoring the Winterhawks 12-5. The Rockets also returned many of their top players from last season's division champs, so Spokane's second home game of the season was going to be anything but easy. Kelowna controlled play early as they kept the Chiefs on their heels in their own zone. Spokane though would take advantage of some Rocket defensive lapses early to take the lead. Mike Aviani scored just 4:09 into the game to make it 1-0. Riley Whittingham then found Dominic Zwerger out front and the Austrian scored his first WHL goal on a backhander at 9:58 to give the Chiefs a 2 goal edge. Reid Gow's slap shot was then tipped by Holmberg at 13:28 and suddenly it was 3-0 Spokane. The outburst would prove to be the difference in the game. Kelowna would get a power play goal late in the first to narrow the lead to 3-1 after one. The goal would also break Eric Williams shutout streak of over 133 minutes.
Holmberg got his second of the night from a nice feed from Yamamoto midway through the second to put the Chiefs ahead 4-1. Myles Bell would score just 55 seconds later for the Rockets to cut the lead to 4-2, but Zwerger would answer for the Chiefs with his second of the game to make it 5-2 Spokane after two. Bell would get a power play goal late in the third to cut the lead to 5-3, but Aviani put home his second of the night on an empty net tally with just 24 seconds left to wrap up a 6-3 win. The Chiefs were outshot 37-31, and went 0-2 on the power play and 3-5 on the penalty kill, but took advantage on the 5 on 5 situations to win their 6th game in 7 starts. Spokane is now tied with Seattle for first in the division as the Chiefs head back out on the road again for 3 straight games in the Central Division.
Three games in 3 nights await the Chiefs as they travel to Edmonton on Friday, Red Deer on Saturday and finish up Sunday in Calgary. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA with the pre-game shows Friday and Saturday at 5:30pm and the puck drops at 6pm Pacific Time. Sundays game will be an afternoon affair from the Saddledome in Calgary with the pre-game at 2:30pm and puck drop at 3pm. Hopefully the Chiefs play will continue to be on the level they've shown over the first 3 weeks of the season and the team comes home with a successful road swing. We'll see you on the radio!