Posted on November 28, 2012 at 9:14 PM
It was the last week the Chiefs would see the Spokane Arena until December 14th, so when the team got ready to face Everett and Tri City in 3 games, it not only marked the last games the team would see in the U.S. Division for a while, but also was a final opportunity to build some momentum before the team departed on their longest road trip of the season. First up was a Wednesday night meeting with the Silvertips, the third time that Everett had travelled to the Spokane Arena in November. Spokane had shut out the Tips in back to back games on November 3rd and 6th by 5-0 and 4-0 scores.
In the 4-0 contest, Chiefs backup goalie Garret Hughson picked up his first career shutout in just his second win of his rookie season. The Chiefs once again went with Hughson as he tried to garner his second straight win against Everett. He would be sharp in the first period as the Silvertips put up 9 shots in the period, but Hughson turned away every opportunity to keep the game scoreless after one. As the first period ended, the Tips took a checking from behind minor penalty, putting Spokane on the power play to start the second. The Chiefs would take advantage of their second man advantage opportunity of the game as Todd Fiddler rifled home his 4th goal in his last 2 games to put Spokane ahead 1-0 just 57 seconds into the second. It would prove to be the only goal of the period, as the Hughson blanked the Tips for the 8th straight period in Spokane.
That shutout streak would end just 1:46 into the third period when the Silvertips scored a power play goal to even the game at one. The two teams would get matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties less than two minutes later to set up the two teams on a 4 on 4 for two minutes. Spokane would get the go ahead goal less than a minute into the 4-4 when Reid Gow snapped a shot on a rush inside the blue line to put the Chiefs up 2-1. It turned out to be the go ahead goal in the game, as Spokane would tack on a Fiddler empty netter on a totally unselfish play from Mike Aviani with 57 seconds left to cap off a 3-1 victory.
Despite losing the shutout, Hughson was rock solid again against the Silvertips, turning aside 20 shots to improve to 3-1 on the season. Spokane outshot Everett 38-21 in the game, including a decisive 16-5 margin in the third. Spokane was hoping the win at home would launch them to their 4th straight win over the rival Tri City Americans, as the Chiefs headed down Highway 395 for the third time this year. Spokane had won their two previous meetings in Tri, outscoring the Ams 8-4 in the two contests. Spokane would go back to starter Eric Williams in Friday night's game, as a good post -Thanksgiving crowd was on hand in Kennewick.
The Chiefs would jump out to a quick 1-0 lead when Cole Wedman scored just 5:29 into the game to make it 1-0 Spokane. Williams would keep the Ams at bay for most of the period, but Tri City would even the contest midway through the period after a scramble for the puck net front to make it a 1-1 game after one. Williams would turn aside 16 of 17 Tri City shots in the first as Spokane was fortunate to be in a tie game. The Chiefs would seem to feed off of their situation in the second as they would get a boost from the recently returned Blake Gal. Gal, in his first game in 6 weeks, put home a Brenden Kichton pass for his first goal of the season midway through the second to put the Chiefs up 2-1. Kichton would then finish a rush just over 5 minutes later to make it 3-1 Spokane late in the second. It looked like that lead would hold into the third, but a bad turnover by the Chiefs in their own zone would lead to a Mitch Topping goal for Tri City with just 13 seconds left in the period to cut the Chiefs lead to 3-2 after two.
You talk about a huge goal. There was noo question it was a huge swing of events in the game, as the Americans came out and evened the game midway through the third and suddenly the two goal cushion was gone for Spokane. It looked as if the Chiefs would withstand the Tri comeback though when Collin Valcourt put home a rebound after Dylan Walchuk had stolen the puck late in the third period, and Valcourt's tally at 16:26 gave Spokane a 4-3 lead. That lead would hold as the Americans had to pull goalie Eric Comrie in the final minute to bring an extra attacker on the ice. The move would pay off for Tri City as the Chiefs would turn the puck over in front of their net and Marcus Messier put home the game tying goal with just 16 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
It marked Spokane's first overtime game of the season, and it didn't take long to end. Tri City would beat the Chiefs up ice on a rush in the first minute of OT, and Malte Stromwall's goal just 43 seconds in would lift the Ams to a come from behind 5-4 overtime win. It was a pretty tough pill for Spokane to swallow as they were just seconds from taking 2nd place from the Americans in the division. Instead, the Chiefs found themselves 1 point back of Tri City as the two teams would head back up 395 to the Spokane Arena the following evening.
The first period would be key for Spokane as they hoped to rebound from the previous night's setback. The Chiefs would get the jump start they needed on Blake Gal's second goal in as many night's on a great finish of a rush with linemates Mike Aviani and Todd Fiddler midway through the first as Spokane took a 1-0 advantage. Tri City would strike again with a goal late in the period on a wraparound in the final minute as the two teams were even at one after the first. Fiddler would continue his hot streak as his shot just 1:16 into the second period put the Chiefs back up 2-1. It was Fiddler's 6th goal in 3 games and would be the only tally of the second as the 2-1 lead would hold into the third period.
The lead would disappear for Spokane only 2:10 into the third as Tri City evened the game at two. Unlike the night before though, the Chiefs would not only re-seize the lead, but would hold it on this night. Comrie would turn the puck over on a clearance down the right wall and the Chiefs Mitch Holmberg would snap the puck into the open net at the 8 minute mark of the third to put Spokane up 3-2. The Chiefs would turn up the pressure offensively over the final half of the period, and would get the insurance goal they needed when Liam Stewart scored at 18:22 to make it a 4-2 game. Stewart would tack on an empty netter in the final minute to sew up a 5-2 for Spokane as the Chiefs gained some redemption for the previous night's defeat.
The victory was Spokane's 12th in 14 home games and moved the team a point ahead of Tri City for second in the division. More importantly, it gave the team a chance to have a good taste in their mouths as they head to the prairies of Canada for their longest road trip of the season, a 6 game swing through the Eastern Division that will span 9 days. The team will be on the road for 11 days total and travel about 3,300 miles total. Let's just say I've done this trip 6 times now, and it never gets any shorter. I'm just glad we do it only every 2 years. It's hard to imagine the Chiefs used to do this trip a couple times a season over a decade ago.
The trip will start in Swift Current on Friday night at 5pm. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA beginning at 4:30pm. Saturday, the Chiefs head to Regina to face the Pats. It will be the same times, but the game will be on 790 KJRB due to the Gonzaga game that night. Spokane will then get two days off before taking on East Division leader Prince Albert, with former Chiefs Anthony Bardaro and Davis Vandane, on Tuesday and Saskatoon on Wednesday. Once again the games will be back on 1510 with pre-game at 4:30pm and puck drop at 5pm. The trip will finish in Brandon on Friday and Moose Jaw Saturday. I'll update this blog on KREM after the games in Swift and Regina, and again after the Prince Albert and Saskatoon games. I'll also have full recaps of each game on my On the Road blogs on spokanechiefs.com.
The Chiefs are the last U.S. team to make the trip through the East, and will hopefully have the success the previous 4 teams had, as none of the 4 had a losing record on their 6 game trip. I just hope the weather is decent, the snow is minimal and the temperatures somewhat less than frigid. A lot to ask in early December, but we can all dream can't we? Let's hope the boys come out ready, and that there's good news to report from the prairies.