With an opening night win under their belt in the Tri Cities, the Chiefs returned home to face the Americans in Spokane's home opener the next Saturday. The Ams had the advantage of playing two games after their loss to the Chiefs, losing at home to Portland, while beating Everett at home two night's before Tri entered the Spokane Arena. Spokane had won 9 of their previous 11 home openers, with most of those wins against the Americans, who had started the Chiefs home schedule 8 straight years.
A crowd of over 8,800 filed in hoping to see Spokane make it 2 straight over Tri City to start the new season. The Chiefs started Eric Williams in net after Williams had sat out the opener with a minor leg injury. The game didn't start well for Williams or the Chiefs as the Americans Justin Feser pounced on a puck in the right circle and snapped a shot in just 11 seconds into the game to make it 1-0 Tri. Spokane settled down from there though, and would pull even 12:01 into the first when Jason Fram scored from the left circle to tie the game at 1 going into the second. Neither team scored in the second, but the Chiefs got two of the three power plays and outshot the Ams 11-6 in the period to establish control offensively.
That became evident just 1:02 into the third when Mitch Holmberg tipped a Collin Valcourt shot in to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead. Tri City answered just over 4 minutes later to tie the game at two, but Holmberg would snap home a shot from the left circle on the power play just 1:08 after Tri's goal to let Spokane re-take the lead at 3-2. The Ams would battle back on a Marcus Messier goal at 15:47 to even the game again at three. The Chiefs wouldn't waste any time again going back in front as Mike Aviani put home a rebound of a Brenden Kichton shot 1:18 later at 17:05 of the third to give Spokane a lead they wouldn't lose. Holmberg would see to it 19 seconds later when he wrapped up a hat trick in the period to cap a 5-3 win.
It was a resilient effort by Spokane as they twice had to answer Tri City tying the game in the third period. Dylan Walchuk had an outstanding game, picking up 3 assists, while Valcourt had 2 helpers. Williams secured 23 to pick up his first win of the year, and Spokane had a 2-0 start under their belts as they headed out on the bus right after the game for an all night drive to Vancouver, B.C. to take on the Giants. Vancouver was off to a 0-3 start, but they had the night off Saturday, while Spokane didn't arrive in Van until 6am for a 4pm start.
Any worries of the Chiefs coming out slow were quickly dispelled as Spokane scored on their first shot of the game. Mike Aviani's backhander on the power play just 3:29 into the game lifted the Chiefs to a 1-0 lead. Spokane bogged down offensively after that though, managing just 3 more shots in the period. Vancouver would draw even on a Nate Burns power play goal after a questionableee roughing call on Spokane's Reid Gow late in the first and the two teams were 1-1 after one. Vancouver would take the lead just 6 minutes into the second period on a David Musil goal past a screened Chiefs goalie Mac Engel, and it was 2-1 Giants after two.
Engel would keep the Chiefs in the game in the late second and early third with two point blank saves on partial breakaway chances by the Giants to allow the Chiefs to stay within 2-1. That turned out to be huge, as Spokane would tie it up 7:59 into the third when Holmberg would score his 4th goal in the last two nights, sniping one home on the power play to make it a 2-2 game.
Unfortunately the Chiefs didn't generate much offensively after that, and would break down in their own zone late in the third. After failing to clear their own zone on 3 different occasions, the Chiefs coughed up the game winner at 14:07 of the third as Spokane dropped their first game of the year 3-2.
The big disappointment was the lack of offense, as the Chiefs managed a paltry 15 shots in the contest. The good news was the power play was a very efficient 2 for 4. It was a just result though, as Spokane was definitelyyyy outefforted in this contest. One side note, Brenden Kichton picked up an assist on Holmberg's goal in the third and with that point, became the all time leading scoring defenseman in Spokane Chiefs history. His 185 points passed Bryan McCabe's mark set in the early 90's. When you consider allll of the defensemen to come through and wear a Chiefs jersey, it's a pretty impressive accomplishment for Kich. He'll probably be recognized for his feat before Friday's game at home with Victoria, and deservedly so.
The Chiefs will be home for 2 straight this weekend, hosting the Royals on Friday and then the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Saturday. Both games are at 7:05pm and I'll have the pre-game shows on 1510 KGA beginning at 6:30pm. Hopefully the boys will bounce back from the loss in Vancouver with a couple of strong outings at home and we certainly hope to see you at the rink!