The Chiefs started the second half of the season with a busy week as they had to play 4 games in 5 nights. So much for keeping any of the holiday weight on!
Things started with yet another trip over Snoqualmie Pass and a meeting with the Seattle Thunderbirds. Spokane was still without captain Jared Cowen and defenseman Reid Gow, who were off playing in the World Junior and Under 17 tournaments, respectively. As you would expect of two teams who had been off the previous eight days, the game was not exactly a crisp, well played affair.
The Chiefs managed only 6 shots in the first period, but scored the only goal of the period as Tyler Johnson took a puck that bounced off the end wall right to his stick and rifled it home for his 24th goal of the season with just 47 seconds left in the period. It was one of those games where the first goal could prove to be the game winner and it certainly looked that way through the second as neither team was able to score. Spokane had 2 of the period's 3 power plays, but had no luck finding the net.
In the third, the Chiefs started to get their offense going, putting up 13 of their 27 shots in the game on net. Spokane would get the insurance goal they were looking for when Steve Kuhn took the puck down the left wing on a Seattle change and rifled it top shelf over T-Birds goalie Calvin Pickard for his 9th goal of the year midway through the period to seal a 2-0 win. Chiefs netminder James Reid pitched his second straight shutout and third of the season with 29 saves as Spokane started the second half like they ended the first half...with a win.
Spokane would return home the next night to try for the home and home sweep, something they failed to accomplish two weeks previously against the Thunderbirds when Seattle scored an overtime win. It looked like it would be the same result this time around as Seattle took a 1-0 lead just 2:19 into the game. Meantime, the Chiefs failed on 3 straight power plays but would pull even with just 1:32 left in the period when Marek Kalus redirected a Davis Vandane shot from the point to leave it 1-1 after the first. The Chiefs outshot Seattle 17-5 in the first, but only had the tie to show for it.
There was no reason to worry as it turns out. The Chiefs would pick up where they left off in the second...and then some. Spokane would open the scoring on Kuhn's second goal in as many nights on a wraparound backhander 5:27 into the period. Johnson would then score his second in as many games with the T-Birds midway through the period to make it 3-1 Chiefs. That goal was quickly followed by a Tanner Mort tally at 12:25 to leave it 4-1. Spokane seemed to catch a bit of jump from Mort's tally while Seattle saw the head and shoulders drop. Johnson would follow with two more goals in the period, completing his third career hat trick and giving the Chiefs a commanding 6-1 lead after two. Spokane outshot Seattle 22-4 in the period and put the game away.
Spokane didn't relax in the third as Matt Marantz and Tyler Vanscourt would score to put the Chiefs up 8-1. Even a late shorthanded Seattle goal didn't dampen a dominating 8-2 Spokane win as the Chiefs outshot the T-Birds 56-14 in the contest. In addition to Johnson's hat trick, Kuhn and Mort had a goal and an assist apiece, while Dominick Uher and Brady Brassart finished with a career high 3 assists apiece.
It was the team's third straight win, and sent the boys into Tri-City on a high note. It didn't last long into the game with the Americans though as the Ams scored just 46 seconds into the game to take a quick 1-0 lead. In two previous games in Tri, the Ams had scored 4 goals in the first in each of the previous games, so it didn't look good for the boys early. Unlike those games though, the Chiefs regrouped and regained control of the game. Spokane would draw even just under 7 minutes later when Brassart gathered a loose puck and slid it through the pads of Tri goalie Drew Owsley to tie the game at one after one.
Late in the first, the game was delayed briefly by a problem with the ice in front of the Tri-City bench area. As the second period got about 2 1/2 minutes in, the game was once again stopped by the ice not holding up in the same area. This time the delay went for nearly an hour, as the arena personnel tried co2, water and a fire extinguisher to get the ice to hold up. but to no avail. It gave me the chance to work on my ad-lib skills for farrr longer than I'd like as well.
After the team's came back out on the ice to warm up and try out the area, one of the officials skated over it and the ice collapsed, leaving a hole the size of a basketball down to the concrete, which is about 3-4" deep. The safety of the players comes first, as it should, and the game was then called after a conference of the two teams officials and the WHL. It was the right call. No player's health and a possible career ending injury is worth playing a game for, even if it's a sell out crowd. It was a shame to see the game called though, as the pace and execution of the two team's games were the best I've seen this year. It felt like a playoff game atmosphere and it was too bad that all went out the window. The game is now rescheduled for down in Tri on Monday, February 21 at 7pm.
The one thing the early ending did do for Spokane is put the Chiefs on the road about an hour to an hour and a half earlier than anticipated. That was a good thing, as the drive to Kelowna was long enough as it was, as the team didn't get to the hotel till after 4 in the morning. The task awaiting the Chiefs was a big one too, as they faced a Rockets team that had won 4 in a row to take over the top spot in the B.C. Division.
Fortunately for the Chiefs, they picked up where they left off the night before as Levko Koper put home a rebound on the power play midway through the first to make it 1-0 Spokane. Just 1:32 later, Brassart would score for the second straight night to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead after one as Spokane dominated the period, outshooting Kelowna 15-2. It got so bad at one point that the Kelowna fans, who are usually very polite, were booing their own team....something you rarellyyyy see.
The Rockets seem to wake up in the second, getting an early goal to cut the Chiefs lead in half. Late in the period though, Darren Kramer would score what turned out to be the biggest goal in the game to give Spokane a 3-1 lead after two. Koper would score off a 4-4 just 38 seconds into the third to make it 4-1 Chiefs and it looked like the game was on ice...so to speak.
Kelowna would come right back less than 4 minutes later to cut the lead to 4-2 and got the crowd right back into the game. The Chiefs would hold off the Rockets from there though, and finish off the 5-2 win when Koper notched the hat trick on an empty net goal with just 23 seconds left. Spokane outshot Kelowna 38-19 and went an impressive 8-8 on the penalty kill in a game that was not well officiated. Spokane dominated in puck possession and carrying the play, yet were outchanced 8-3 in power play chances. Go figure that one out. I still am.
It was win though and a good one after the events of the night before and the all night travel to take on a well rested team that was playing well coming into the contest. The win marked the Chiefs 4th straight as they now get to come home for 2 straight contests.
Spokane will welcome the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and former Chiefs Mike Reddington and Landon Oslanski on Friday night, then the Chiefs host the Everett Silvertips on Saturday. Both games will be at 7pm, with the pregame shows to start at 6:30pm. Friday's game will be on the regular home of 1510 KGA, while Saturday's will be on 790 KJRB due to the Gonzaga game. Hopefully the boys keep up their good play of late, and we certainly hope to see you at the rink!