Posted on March 14, 2013 at 2:00 AM
After sweeping a 3 game road swing in Everett and Victoria, the Chiefs took their 5 game winning streak home to the Spokane Arena as they opened a 5 game homestand over the last 2 weeks of the regular season. The win streak had kept Spokane within striking distance of 4th place Tri City in the Western Conference standings and the Chiefs were hoping to keep the winning going at home, where they had gone 21-9-1 thus far. First up were the Seattle Thunderbirds, a team Spokane had beaten 3 straight times in the first week of January in the two teams last encounters. Seattle was in a playoff battle as well, leading Everett by just 1 point in the race for 7th in the conference.
The Chiefs had won all 3 meetings with Seattle at home this year, and it looked to be 4 in a row early in Spokane's first game of the homestand. Mike Aviani scored midway through the first period to lift Spokane to a 1-0 lead after one. The Chiefs would extend the lead on a Carter Proft tally 7:20 into the second period to go up 2-0. Seattle would score on a power play goal just 1:17 after Proft's goal to cut the lead to 2-1 after two. Spokane had lost just 4 games in 34 chances when they had led after two periods and after having outshot Seattle 17-6 in the second, it didn't look like the Chiefs were going to have it happen on this night.
Seattle had other ideas. A Shea Theodore power play goal just 6:36 into the third brought the Thunderbirds even at 2-2. Spokane would get their own power play chance less than a minute later, but when defenseman Reid Gow missed the puck at the Seattle blue line, the T-Birds went on a 2 on 1 rush the other way, and Connor Sanvido converted a short handed goal at 8:01 to give Seattle their first lead at 3-2. Spokane didn't muster much offensively in the third, getting outshot 17-7, and Seattle would put the finishing touches on a 3 goal third on an empty net goal in the final half minute to complete a come from behind 4-2 win.
The loss snapped the Chiefs 5 game win streak and their 7 game streak against Seattle. It was a costly loss for Spokane as the Chiefs lost an opportunity to pass Tri City for 4th place in the conference. With just 6 games left, every game was almost becoming a must for the Chiefs to get points. Spokane would have to rebound against the team chasing Seattle, the Everett Silvertips. Spokane had won their last two matchups with Everett, including a 6-3 road win in Everett the week before. In Friday's game though, it was the Silvertips that came out with the quick lead. Josh Winquist's 5 on 3 power play goal at 4:56 put Everett up 1-0. Brayden Low's tip at 12:49 of the first made it 2-0 Everett, and things were not looking good for Spokane for the second straight game at home. The Chiefs got a major lift though late in the first when Connor Chartier scored his 4th of his 6 goals this year against Everett at 17:54 to cut the lead to 2-1 after one.
Spokane would keep the momentum going when Riley Whittingham scored from the goal line 3:08 into the second period to even the game at 2. Winquist would counter with a rebound at 5:38 to put the Silvertips back up 3-2, but Alessio Bertaggia would score late in the second at 17:51 to tie the game back up at 3 heading into the third period. Little were we to know Bertaggia's goal would be a prelude of things to come in the third. The Chiefs would get a 5 on 3 power play chance early in the third when the Silvertips took back to back penalites 43 seconds apart. Bertaggia would capitalize with a shot from the right circle 6:30 into the period to give Spokane their first lead at 4-3. Spokane would get 4 straight power play chances in the third and would take advantage of their final chance when Blake Gal scored on the power play at 17:47 to make it 5-3. Bertaggia would cap a 4 point night with his first hat trick as a Chief with an empty net goal at 19:52 to wrap up a 6-3 win.
Spokane outshot the Silvertips 44-25 in the game, going 2 for 6 on the power play as they took 6 of 8 from the Silvertips this season, including all 4 at the Spokane Arena. There wasn't a lot of time to celebrate the win though, as the Chiefs welcomed the Kootenay Ice to the Arena the very next night. The Ice had played as well as any team in the league since the Christmas break, and had pulled themselves from last in the Eastern Conference to the last playoff berth in 8th place. The two teams had split their first 4 games, including each team going 1-1 at home. Spokane had been shut down in the two teams last meeting in Cranbrook, losing 4-1 on February 8th. The Chiefs matched that goal output just 6:38 into the game when Jason Fram scored a power play goal to give Spokane a 1-0 lead after one.
Kootenay came right back with a power play goal of their own just over 7 minutes into the second period to even the game at one but the Chiefs responded with a Brenden Kichton goal at 12:53 to take a 2-1 lead after two periods. The third period was an offensive slugfest as the two teams combined for 6 goals. Kootenay's Jaedon Desheneau scored just 2:26 into the third period to tie the game again at 2. The Chiefs came right back just 2:33 later when Mitch Holmberg scored his 37th of the year to put Spokane up 3-2. Blake Gal then converted a Holmberg pass at 7:17 to make it a 4-2 lead. Desheneau would net his second of the night at 9:50 to bring the Ice within 4-3, but Gal would come right back just 35 seconds later with his second of the period to put the Chiefs back up two at 5-3. Kootenay would pull their goalie McKenzie Skapski with 2 minutes left, but Spokane would seal the game when Kichton hit Bertaggia in stride for a breakaway into the empty net at 18:31 of the period to cap off a 6-3 Chiefs victory. For the second straight game, the Chiefs put up 40 shots, outshooting Kootenay 41-30.
The win would enable the Chiefs to tie Tri City for 4th in the conference when the Americans lost to Prince George in a shootout at home. Each team now had 84 points with just 4 games left in the regular season as they headed into the final week. Spokane would open the week by facing Prince George at the Arena on Tuesday while the Americans were in Seattle. The Chiefs came out against the Cougars with one of their best first periods of the season, if not their best. Adam Helewka would break in on a 2 on 1 and fire the puck past former Chief goalie Mac Engel to make it 1-0 Chiefs just 3:43 into the game. Todd Fiddler would score his team leading 42nd goal of the year at 15:35 to put Spokane ahead 2-0, then Markson Bechtold scored his first career goal at 17:54 to cap a 3 goal first period. The Chiefs put up a season high 26 shots in the first period while holding PG to just 6 shots on goalie Eric Williams. Spokane would add to the lead in the second when Mitch Holmberg scored a power play goal as the Chiefs took a commanding 4-0 lead into third.
Mike Aviani added to the lead with his 30th goal of the season 1:50 into the third to put the Chiefs up 5-0 and seemingly putting the game on ice for Spokane. Prince George wasn't done though as Troy Bourke broke up the shutout at 9:57 of the third. The goal would spark a 4 goal outburst by the Cougars, two of them from Dan Gibb, as PG got within 5-4 at the 17:41 mark of the third. Prince George would pull their goalie again after Gibb's second goal, but the Chiefs Blake Gal would get the puck out of the Spokane end and find Bertaggia for another empty netter for the Chiefs forward as Spokane would hold off Prince George 6-4.
The win was magnified when Tri City lost in Seattle as Spokane moved ahead of the Americans by 2 points for 4th place in the Western Conference. Spokane now has a chance to clinch 4th with a win in regulation over Tri City at the Arena on Friday night. The Chiefs own the tiebreaker with more wins by 2, 42-40, so a win on Friday would seal the tiebreak by 3 with 2 to play. Tri City and Spokane will play back to back games on Friday at the Arena and Saturday in Kennewick. Sunday, the Chiefs will be in Portland and Tri City in Everett. The Chiefs control their own destiny in the final weekend of the season and it will be exciting to watch playoff hockey pre-playoffs.
I'll have the call on 1510 KGA Friday through Sunday, with the pre-game shows at 6:30pm on Friday and Saturday and the puck drops at 7:05pm. Sunday's game in Portland will have the pre-game at 4:30pm and the puck drop at 5:05pm. As an added note, with the Spokane Arena tied up the last week of March with the NCAA Women's Tournament, the Chiefs and the Americans had to creatively find a way to schedule games in Spokane with the flexibility to accomodate the home ice situation for both teams. The schedule is as follows:
Game 1 - Friday, March 22nd - Tri-City at Spokane - 7:05 p.m.
Game 2 - Saturday, March 23rd - Tri-City at Spokane - 7:05 p.m.
Game 3 - Tuesday, March 26th - Spokane at Tri-City - 7:05 p.m.
Game 4 - Thursday, March 28th - Spokane at Tri-City - 7:05 p.m.
Game 5* - Saturday, March 30th - Spokane at Tri-City - 7:05 p.m.
Game 6* - Tuesday, April 2nd - Tri-City at Spokane - 7:05 p.m.
(if Spokane finishes in fourth place)
Game 7* - Wednesday, April 3rd Tri-City at Spokane - 7:05 p.m.
(if Tri-City finishes in fourth place)
Game 7* - Wednesday, April 3rd Spokane at Tri-City - 7:05 p.m.
* if necessary
As you can see, the first 6 games are set, with Spokane getting the first two at home and the next 3 on the road. Needless to say, if Spokane splits at home in the first two games, they will have a huge challenge with 3 in a row at Tri City. That is down the road though, as the bigger challenge is this weekend's home and home with the Americans. It promises to be a playoff preview and we really hope to see you at the rink this weekend!