Almost a month into the regular season, and the Chiefs are starting to get into the meat of the schedule as it were. The regular routine is to be playing 3 or 4 games a week, and this past week's portion saw Spokane play 3 of 4 on the road, as they took on Kelowna, Kamloops, Vancouver and Seattle. The trip would begin with back to back games in British Columbia as the Chiefs visited Kelowna and Kamloops on Wednesday and Friday.
Game one against the Rockets was the first of the regular season between the two, but the two teams had met in the pre-season in Spokane, with the Chiefs holding off Kelowna for the win. The start of this game began with a tussle between the Chiefs Carter Proft and the Rockets Carter Rigby, so expecting this game to be tough and physical wasn't a stretch at allll. Kelowna dominated offensively in the first, peppering Chiefs goalie Eric Williams with 20 shots in the period. Willy was flawless though, keeping Kelowna off the board, as the Chiefs penalty kill helped matters by turning aside all 3 Rocket power play chances in the first. Spokane would get just one power play in the first, and would take advantage as Mitch Holmberg scored on a rebound at 14:45 of the first to make it 1-0 Spokane. The Chiefs penalty kill would jump into the act just 1:10 later as Liam Stewart scored off a Brenden Kichton feed to score shorthanded and give Spokane a 2-0 lead after one.
The Chiefs then looked to be in full control of the game when Dylan Walchuk tipped a Collin Valcourt shot in at 4:51 of the second period to give Spokane a 3-0 edge. Spokane was crisp with the puck and controlled possession of the game until Carter Proft took a needless boarding penalty late in the second period. Kelowna scored just 9 seconds into the power play and took momentum back as they closed the margin to 3-1. The momentum became only toooo apparent when the Rockets scored with under 2 minutes left in the period to bring the score to 3-2 Spokane and it became obvious to everyone in the building that it was game on at that point.
Kelowna would come all the way back and tie the game at 3 on a goal at 8:46 of the third period and this contest looked like we could be headed to overtime. Spokane would bounce right back after that though, as Mike Aviani scored on a rebound at 9:53 to get the Chiefs back on top at 4-3, and more importantly give control of the game back to Spokane. Holmberg would notch his second of the period off a face off win by Stewart at 15:04 to put the Chiefs up 5-3, but Kelowna would counter with a goal with an extra attacker on at 18:11 to move within 5-4. Valcourt would settle the issue though with an empty net goal at 19:17 to cap a 6-4 win, and give Spokane their second road win in 3 attempts this year.
Williams was excellent in net, turning away 39 shots, while the Chiefs penalty kill went 3-4 on the night. It was a good start to the road trip through B.C. and gave the team some positive energy as they headed North to play the top team in the Western Conference, the Kamloops Blazers. Kamloops came into the game 3rd in the latest CHL poll, and were the top rated team from the Western Hockey League in the poll. The Blazers dominated the series against Spokane last year, winning 3 of 4, including both games in Kamloops, so the Chiefs were hoping to turn that around this season in the first matchup of the year.
Unfortunately, J.C. Lipon and the Blazers had other ideas. Spokane was solid in the first period, actually outshooting Kamloops 12-11, but Lipon torched the Chiefs with 3 goals in the first 8:30 of the game to put Spokane in a 3-0 hole after one. The last Lipon goal came on the power play when Tim Bozon of the Blazers bowled over Williams in the crease in a clear case of goalie interference. The referees missed the call though, and Spokane found themselves down 3 going into the second. To their credit, the Chiefs didn't lay down and came out and dominated the second period. Spokane would outshoot Kamloops 19-4 in the second, but would manage just one goal on Blazer goalie Cole Cheveldave. That tally would come from Liam Stewart on a nice shot from the left circle at 18:01 of the period.
Spokane would get two straight power play chances, one to end the second, the next early in the third, but would fail to score on either attempt. Those failures would haunt the Chiefs as Kamloops would score twice in a two and a half minute span to extend the lead to 5-1 and put the game away. For the first time this season, Spokane lost the special teams battle, as Kamloops went 2-6 on the power play, while the Chiefs failed to score on the power play for the first time at 0-4. It was a valuable lesson for Spokane as the Chiefs learned the hard way that any mistakes against a good team were probably going to end up in your net.
With that lesson in mind, Spokane headed home to take on a Vancouver Giant team that had knocked off the Chiefs the last day of September in Vancouver. Both teams headed into the game off of all night bus rides, as the Giants had hosted Seattle the night before. I was curious to see who would have the most energy after getting little sleep the night before and right away both teams weren't particularly sharp. The Chiefs would get the first break of the game as they would capitalize on their second power play of the first. Brenden Kichton scored on a great back door pass from Mitch Holmberg in the last minute of the period to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead after one.
Spokane would score on their second power play of the second period as Todd Fiddler snapped one from the right circle to make it 2-0 Chiefs early in the second. Vancouver would come back and score late in the period to cut the Spokane lead to 2-1 after two and it was looking like a tight contest would ensue from there. Spokane came out with a new focus in the third though, as the team's top line of Dylan Walchuk, Mitch Holmberg, and Collin Valcourt took the game over in the final 20 minutes.
Valcourt scored on a rebound from Walchuk and Holmberg just 1:53 into the third to put the Chiefs up 3-1. Valcourt would strike again, again from his linemates at 10:05 to make it 4-1 Spokane. Vancouver would score just 2:25 later to cut the lead to 4-2, but Valcourt would notch his first hat trick of his career with an empty netter from his own blue line with just 2 seconds later to sealu up a 5-2 Chiefs win. Spokane would outshoot the Giants 34-24 and dominate special teams, going 2-4 on the power play and a perfect 6-6 on the penalty kill. It was a great bounce back after the previous night's loss and gave the Chiefs a boost as they headed back on the road to play division rival Seattle.
This was the first matchup of the season between the two and just the third game in 9 within the U.S. Division for Spokane after playing the opening two games of the year against Tri Cities. Spokane has traditionally had success at the ShoWare Center, the home of the Thunderbirds, and the Chiefs were hoping that would continue on a rare Tuesday night game. The start of the game was lessss than ideal, as Luke Lockhart scored on a rebound just 1:01 into the game to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead. Spokane had just one shot on net in the first 14 minutes of action, but would get things going offensively late. Unfortunately, the Chiefs didn't score any goals, as they were down 1-0 after one.
The momentum they built in the first would carry over to the second period though, as Holmberg would steal a puck at center ice and go in and score on a breakaway just 24 seconds into the period to tie the game at one. Spokane's Mikulas Rimmel would then strike for his first WHL goal at 1:15 to give the Chiefs their first...and as it turns out..only lead of the game at 2-1. Spokane would turn the puck over twice inside their blue in an under 3 minute period, and Seattle would score on both chances to take a 3-2 lead. Spokane would bounce back though as Adam Helewka notched his first career goal at 7:54 to even the game at three. After just one goal in 20 minutes, the two teams combined for 5 in under 8 minutes.
Just when it looked like the Chiefs would head to the third on an even plane, Spokane would turn the puck over againnn inside their blue line in the final 30 seconds of the period, and Seattle would get Connor Sanvido's second straight goal of the period to seize a 4-3 lead after two. You talk about a gut buster. Now Seattle had the lead and all the momentum of the game when Spokane had a grand opportunity to take control of the game in the third. The Chiefs didn't help their cause early in the third when back to back penalties gave Seattle a 5-3 power play chance. The Thunderbirds took advantage too, scoring just 2:32 in to take a 5-3 lead.
Spokane would control the third period offensively, outshooting the T-Birds 17-5, but wouldn't break onto the scoreboard until the 17:26 mark when Reid Gow scored his first of the year when the Chiefs had an extra skater on for pulled goalie Eric Williams to get within 5-4. The Chiefs would then pull Williams again in the final minute and a half, but Lockhart poked the puck past defenseman Brenden Kichton and scored an empty netter with 1:20 left to seal a 6-4 Seattle win.
It wasn't all bad news for Kichton though, as he picked up 2 assists, giving him 147 for his career, and passing Frank Evans for the all time mark for assists by a Chiefs defenseman. Kichton now holds the marks for all time goals, assists and points by a defenseman in team history and will no doubt go down as one of the best to play the position when his career in Spokane ends after this season. Unfortunately, the record came in a disappointing loss that left the Chiefs 3 points back of Portland and Tri City for first in the division and just 2 points ahead of Seattle for third. Now the team must regroup as it heads home to face Seattle again, this time at home.
Friday's game with the Thunderbirds will be the first of two at the Spokane Arena this weekend. Spokane will host Prince George for the first time on Saturday, beginning the first of three straight against the Cougars over a 5 day period. Friday and Saturday's home games will both start up at 7:05pm and I'll have the pre-game starting at 6:30pm on 1510 KGA. Spokane will then head wayyyy North to Prince George for back to back games with the Cougars on Tuesday and Wednesday. Puck drop is at 7pm both nights, with the pre-game shows at 6:30pm on 1510. The games are starting to pile up. I'll post blogs of the road games on spokanechiefs.com. Just click the news link to find them, and I'll of course do my weekly recaps here on krem.com.
Let's hope the boys bounce back at home this weekend and carry the momentum on the longgg bus ride to PG next week. Hope to see you at the rink this weekend!