Spokane Chiefs Blog: Working overtime
Posted on November 25, 2013 at 8:04 PM
Updated Tuesday, Nov 26 at 8:00 PM
After having only played two games the week before, it was back to the somewhat normal routine schedule for the Chiefs last week, as Spokane playing 3 games in 4 nights. Games on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are fairly typical during the season and that's exactly what the Chiefs had as they entertained Vancouver, headed to Portland and then ended the week hosting rival Tri City. Spokane began the week in 3rd place in the U.S. Division, trailing Everett and Portland in the standings. First up was the 3rd place team in the B.C. Division, the Vancouver Giants, a team Spokane had beaten 6-4 in Vancouver back on November 1st. Since that game though, Vancouver had won 7 of 9 and were coming off a tough overtime loss the night before in Tri City. The Chiefs were hoping to rebound from a lethargic 3-2 loss at Kootenay the Saturday before.
Spokane got off to a good start against the Giants...good being an understatement...as Mike Aviani scored on the power play just 57 seconds into the game to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Spokane got the power play when Vancouver's Tim Traber dropped the gloves on the Chiefs Carter Proft at the opening face-off and drew a roughing penalty just 4 seconds into the contest. Spokane then had a chance to go up 2-0 on the power play but a giveaway..again an understatement here..by the Chiefs Reid Gow in his own zone, led to a breakaway by Carter Popoff and the Giants scored shorthanded to tie the game at one at 12:14 of the first. Spokane would get another power play chance just over a minute later, one of 5 chances they had in the period, and would convert when Connor Chartier banged home a rebound at 14:18 to make it 2-1 Chiefs after one.
The second period was less than stellar from a Chiefs perspective. A missed check on the wall led to a goal by the Giants just 1:46 in to tie the game at two. Another turnover by Gow found the stick of Cain Franson and the Giants forward gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead after two periods. Spokane was outshot 12-5 in the period and faced an uphill battle heading to the third. The third didn't begin too well for the Chiefs either, as the Giants scored on a power play just 2:28 into the period to go ahead 4-2 and some boos started up in the Spokane Arena. They didn't last long as Mike Aviani found Mitch Holmberg in the slot and Holmberg put home a backhand in the net at 4:59 to get the Chiefs back in the game at 4-3.
From that point, you could sense the Chiefs...and the fans..were back in the game. Goalie Eric Williams made a huge save on Traber on a wide open chance midway through the period to keep it a one goal contest. Spokane would then draw even when Jeremy McIntosh one timed a Giants turnover at 14:30 to tie the game 4-4. With that goal, it seemed it was the Chiefs game to win. They would do just that only 1:14 into overtime when a Tyler King shot from the blue line went off Carter Proft's skate into the net and Spokane would escape with a 5-4 victory. It wasn't the Chiefs finest game by any stretch of the imagination, but the team still got two points in the standings to remain 5 points out of first.
The next contest would be the toughest matchup of the week as the Chiefs headed to Portland to face the Winterhawks. Spokane had lost the previous 3 meetings with the Hawks, losing the last game in Spokane 3-1. In the only other contest in Portland, the Chiefs fell behind 4-1 after one and had to scramble throughout to get back in the game. On this night, the two teams would go scoreless through the first half of the first period, but the Hawks would break open the dam in the latter half of the stanza, scoring 3 goals in just over 6 minutes to take a 3-0 lead after one. It felt like the first matchup in Portland all over again, but in this game Spokane started the comeback in the second rather than the third. Connor Chartier would get the Chiefs on the board at 5:34 with his 5th goal of the season to get Spokane within 3-1. A costly lack of communication and turnover at the Portland blue line led to a Brendan Leipsic breakaway and his 2nd goal of the game as Portland went back up by 3 at 4-1. The Chiefs didn't wilt though, as Riley Whittingham scored at 11:26 to cut the lead to 4-2. Adam Helewka would then score off a great pass from Holmberg at 14:14 and suddenly the Chiefs were back in the game at 4-3. Portland would answer though as Nick Petan scored with just 36 seconds left in the period to give Portland a 5-3 lead after two.
It was a huge goal...and as it turns out, the game winner. Aviani would score shorthanded at 8:24 of the third to bring Spokane within 5-4. The Chiefs would get several chances to tie, none better than Liam Stewart's drive to the net that got him a point blank net front chance late in the period, but Spokane was unable to pull even. A double minor high stick penalty on Chiefs defenseman Cole Wedman with just 3 minutes remaining left the Chiefs unable to get a man advantage late in the game as Portland had the power play for the rest of regulation. The Winterhawks would capitalize as they would score an empty net power play goal in the closing seconds to close out the Chiefs 6-4. Despite the comeback, it marked Spokane's 4th straight loss to Portland this year and 12th in a row over the last two seasons. Spokane also fell 7 points back of first place Everett in the standings.
The task wouldn't get any easier after an all night bus ride back to Spokane as the Chiefs hosted Tri City for the first time since the home opener in late September. The Americans were only 3 points back of Spokane in the standings coming into the game and were fresh off a loss at home to Kelowna the night before. The Ams came out firing on this night though, as Connor Rankin's power play goal at 2:53 gave Tri City a quick 1-0 lead. Tri would extend the lead as the Chiefs gave up a shorthanded goal for the 2nd time in 3 games as Lucas Nickles scored as his stick broke on the shot at 5:50 to make it 2-0 Tri City. Spokane would get on the board as Carter Proft scored his second goal in 3 games at 11:39 to cut the lead to 2-1. Tri City came right back with a power play goal at 13:58 to regain the two goal advantage at 3-1. The Chiefs got a key goal late in the period though when Keanu Yamamoto scored on the power play with just 1:03 left to get within 3-2 after one.
The two teams didn't generate a lot of offensive chances in the second as neither team was able to get on the scoreboard. Being down one goal is far better than 2 or 3, so a comeback was very feasible for the Chiefs. Spokane would get that comeback at 8:09 of the third when Mitch Holmberg's shot on the power play went off a skate net front and into the net for his league leading 27th of the season to tie the game at three. Neither team would score the go ahead goal in regulation, although Holmberg hit a post late for the best scoring chance late in the game. The contest would head to overtime, the 3rd time in the last 4 games for Spokane.
The Chiefs held the advantage in the 4 on 4 period as they would control play territorially. Spokane would take the puck in the final minute and got on a rush up ice as Aviani skated down the left wing and fed the puck cross ice to a charging Jason Fram who went to the back door post and knocked home the game winner with only 24 seconds left in overtime to win it for Spokane 4-3. It was the second straight overtime win at home for the Chiefs and the fans certainly got their monies worth in this latest battle between the two old rivals. Spokane gained an important two points in the standings too, as they remained 7 out of first, 4 back of second, and went 4 ahead of Tri for third.
The Chiefs, like the rest of the league, will take most of the week off for the Russian Super Series the WHL is playing on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Spokane is right back into the heart of the schedule with 3 games in 3 nights this weekend as they host Portland Friday, travel to Tri City Saturday and return home to entertain Seattle on Sunday. Three huge games in the very rugged U.S. Division, Hard as it is to believe, there is only 3 weeks left in the first half of the season, so these division games take on added importance. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA this weekend, with Friday and Saturday's games starting at 7:05pm and the pre-game at 6:30pm. Sunday's game at the Arena with Seattle will mark the first meeting of the year between the two and will start at 5pm with the pre-game at 4:30pm. We hope to see you at the rink!