With a win over Victoria in the Chiefs first game of their 4 game road swing through British Columbia, Spokane aimed to make it two straight over the Royals on Wednesday night. The Chiefs once again went with Mac Engel, as he was rock solid in goal in the win the night before. Spokane would put up 14 shots in the first period, only to come out of the period in a scoreless game. Fortunately for the Chiefs, they carried the offensive momentum to the second period. Spokane would outshoot the Royals again in the second, this time 12-10, and this came in spite of the fact the Chiefs had to kill 3 Victoria power plays in the period.
The Chiefs Blake Gal broke through for Spokane with a goal in his second straight game against the Royals at 6:31 of the period to make it 1-0. Spokane's penalty kill then came through on Victoria's second power play of the stanza, as Steve Kuhn's shot was rebounded by Liam Stewart at 15:15 to put the Chiefs up 2-0. Brenden Kichton would follow with a goal off the rush less than a minute and a half later to cap a 3 goal second period for Spokane as the Chiefs took a 3-0 lead to the third.
Stewart and Kuhn would strike on the penalty kill once again in the third, as Stewart converted his second shorthanded goal of the night at 9:46 of the third period to give the Chiefs a 4-0 lead. Mike Aviani would bang another tally home for Spokane at 11:44 to put the Chiefs firmly in charge at 5-0. The only suspense left was whether Chiefs goalie Mac Engel would pick up his 2nd shutout of the year. Victoria would spoil that chance when Steve Hodges scored just 1:08 after Aviani's goal to cut the lead to 5-1. Dominick Uher would counter for the Chiefs though, with his team leading 28th of the year on a nice pass from Connor Chartier to cap a 6-1 Spokane victory.
It was a great way to start the trip, as the Chiefs moved to within a game of .500 on the road in regulation. The Chiefs then spent their 'off'' day by leaving the hotel in Victoria just after 7am, packing the equipment at the rink, and then catching the 9am ferry to Vancouver. The ferry trip took an hour and a half, and after dinner in Quesnel, the team pulled into the hotel in Prince George at 9pm to complete a 14 hour bus ride North. Let's just say it was a pretty sound sleep for all of us thattt night in PG!
The first game would see the Cougars jump out to a 1-0 lead just over 7.5 minutes into the game. The Chiefs would come back to even it up when Marek Kalus would backhand one past Cougar goalie Drew Owsley at 15:56 to tie the game after the first. The second period would once again prove to be the difference for Spokane, as Todd Fiddler and Darren Kramer scored 41 seconds apart midway through the second to give the Chiefs a 3-1 lead after two. For Fiddler, it was his first goal since January 28th and for Kramer, it was his 20th goal of the season.
Any chance of a Cougar comeback in the third period would be turned back just 44 seconds into the third period when Dylan Walchuk scored his first goal since February 10th to give Spokane a 4-1 lead. Mac Engel and the defense would do the rest, as the Chiefs turned away 3 PG power plays to go 15-15 through 3 wins during the B.C road trip. Engel picked up his third win of the trip as well, giving up just 4 goals in the 3 victories.
The following evening would give the Chiefs a chance to go a perfect 4-0 on the road trip as the team went with Eric Williams in net on Saturday against the Cougars. The Spokane power play, which had gone just 1-36 since February 18th, would get the Chiefs out to an early 1-0 lead when Mitch Holmberg converted a 5-3 chance 5:45 into the game. Prince George would even the game though when they scored on their first power play of the contest midway through the first to make it 1-1 after the first.
The two teams went back and forth in the second. Uher scored just 51 seconds into the period to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead. Prince George would answer with two goals less than 3 minutes apart after Spokane defensive lapses to re-take the lead at 3-2. The Chiefs Corey Baldwin would score his 2nd goal in his last 3 games midway through the second to tie the game at three as the two teams headed to the third period. Neither team mustered much in the final period, but Spokane committed a costly too many men on the ice penalty with just 15 seconds left that put the Cougars on the power play into overtime.
Prince George wasted little time converting the power play as Cody Carlson scored just 18 seconds into OT to give the Cougars their 3rd win against Spokane in 4 tries this season. Despite the disappointing finish to the trip, the Chiefs took 7 of 8 points on the road swing to move back even with Vancouver for the 4th place spot in the Western Conference playoff race. The road trip home wasn't without its' moments, as the team bus had to stop in Omak for repairs to the radiator hose. The delay had the team arrive home in Spokane around 4pm Sunday after departing from Prince George a little past 10:30pm the previous night. Let's just say the team was more than happy to say goodbye to the bus after thattt experience.
The Chiefs returned home Wednesday to open a three game homestand against the Kelowna Rockets. It was the first meeting between the two since January 4th when Kelowna earned their first win over Spokane in the season series. Spokane seemed pretty happy to be home as they outshot the Rockets 12-3 and took a 1-0 lead on Uher's 3rd goal in his last 4 games midway through the first. The lead would disappear in the second after Uher failed to score on a breakaway while the Chiefs were shorthanded. Kelowna took the puck the other way and Carter Rigby snapped a shot past Engel's glove to tie the game at one after two.
Uher would stake the Chiefs the lead again in the third when Spokane converted a power play goal for the second straight game at 2:41 of the period. Kelowna, who had been outshot by Spokane 26-11 after two periods, would pull even again on another power play goal at 6:08 to tie the game at two. The Chiefs would take a penalty in the final two minutes to put the Rockets back on the power play to end regulation, but Spokane would come up with their first and only penalty kill of the night to take the game to overtime. In overtime, neither team would score as the clubs would head to a best of three round shootout.
Both teams failed to score in the first round of the shootout. The Chiefs Dylan Walchuk missed in round two, while Jesse Lees of Kelowna would beat Engel to give the Rockets a 1-0 lead after round two. Spokane's Mitch Holmberg would keep the Chiefs alive by sliding the puck under the pads of Kelowna goalie Jordan Cooke in round three to tie the shootout at one. The drama of the moment and the crowd roar abruptly came to an end when Kelowna's Myles Bell scored on Engel to give Kelowna the 2-1 shootout win and a 3-2 victory. The loss marked Spokane's third straight loss at home, the longest streak of the year.
The Chiefs did gain a point though, and are still tied with Vancouver, who lost in overtime to Tri City. Spokane now gets to host the Americans Friday night at 7:05pm and entertain the defending league champion Kootenay Ice Saturday, also at 7:05pm. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA both nights beginning with the pre-game shows at 6:30pm. It's the next to last weekend of the regular season as the Chiefs now have just 6 games remaining. Four of the contests will be at home, so we hope to see you at the rink to root the team to a strong finish!