Spokane Chiefs Blog: Positive signs
Posted on February 25, 2013 at 10:25 PM
When you've just been outscored 14-3 in your last two games against your biggest division rivals the previous weekend, there's nowhere to go but up, right? That was what the Chiefs were looking to do as they prepared to face two of the top 7 teams in all of the Canadian Hockey League this past weekend as the third ranked Edmonton Oil Kings and 7th rated Kamloops Blazers came to town on back to back nights. The nice part of the week though was when the Chiefs didn't have to play any games during the middle of the week, having to just prepare for 2 contests, something the team has not had the luxury to do the last 2 months.
First up were the defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil KIngs, who had the best record in the Eastern Conference. Edmonton was coming off a loss at home on Wednesday to Regina, so you had to imagine the Oil Kings were not going to be in good humor heading South of the border to play the Chiefs in the two teams only meeting of the season. Edmonton had never won in Spokane, and had just picked up their first win over the Chiefs ever the year before in Edmonton. The Oil Kings are statistically one of the top teams in the league in just about every category, leading the league in goals allowed, power play and penalty kill. Needless to say, a formidable task for the Chiefs on Friday night.
A sellout crowd was a good start for Spokane, as the crowd was loud and into the game from the puck drop. The Oil Kings looked to have the early advantage as their league leading power play was on the ice in the first 3 minutes of the game. The Chiefs had other ideas as Dylan Walchuk stole the puck and hit Mike Aviani in stride for a breakaway. Aviani rifled the shot past Oil Kings goalie Laurent Brossoit to score shorthanded and give Spokane a 1-0 lead after one. The Chiefs turned away 3 Edmonton power plays in the first, as backup goaltender Garret Hughson, who got the start, turned back all 9 Oil Kings shots in the period.
Spokane would come out early in the second and jump out to a 2-0 lead when Walchuk finished off an odd man rush from Reid Gow at 4:25 of the period. Edmonton would counter with a rebound goal from Cole Benson to cut the lead to 2-1 at 7:13. The Chiefs power play then took over the game, as they would score back to back goals to go up by three. Brenden Kichton's pass went off the skate of Mike Aviani and in the net at 11:04 to make it 3-1. Kichton would then find Mitch Holmberg net front and Holmberg's tip was perfect as his 35th goal of the year gave the Chiefs a 4-1 advantage heading into the third.
Benson would score early in the third to bring Edmonton within 4-2, but Todd Fiddler's power play goal at 7:17, again from Kichton and also from Hughson, gave the Chiefs what seemed to be a commanding 5-2 lead. The Oil Kings showed why they're the defending champs though with 2 goals in less than 2 minutes to make it a tense 5-4 game. It would remain that way into the game's final 2 minutes. Edmonton's power play unit was back on the ice after scoring in their previous attempt and the intensity of the building could be felt in Ritzville. Spokane's Liam Stewart would steal the puck in the Chiefs zone, skate past 2 Edmonton defenders and rifle a shorthanded tally past goalie Tristan Jarry to seal a 6-4 Chiefs win.
It was a huge bounce back from what the team had showed the previous two games, and hopefully the team would build on the performance the very next night against Kamloops. They would have to if they hoped to knock off a Blazer team that rolled over Vancouver 6-0 the night before in Vancouver. The nice thing for Spokane was they would sleep in their own beds, while Kamloops had traveled all night. The Chiefs would once again go with Hughson after his winning effort the night before. It would turn out to be a great decision.
Kamloops came out in the first period and put up the first 6 shots on goal, although Spokane had the best chance when Adam Helewka missed the net from between the circles. The Chiefs would slowly take over offensively as the period developed, in large part due to 4 straight power play attempts, including a 5 on 3 for 1:14. Unfortunately for Spokane, they failed to score on any of those chances and found themselves in a scoreless game after one. The second period would actually see the Blazers outshoot the Chiefs 2 to 1 at 14-7, but Spokane would win the game with one offensive outburst. Blake Gal got a puck from Todd Fiddler on the left wing and snapped a shot past goalie Cole Cheveldave at 10:18 to give the Chiefs the first goal of the game.
Just 24 seconds later, Fiddler would muscle his way past Kamloops defenseman Landon Cross and score on a breakaway to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead. It would prove to be more than enough for Hughson, as he would turn back all 32 Blazer shots on the night, including several in the final 2 minutes when Cheveldave was pulled for an extra attacker. Hughson even picked up an assist on Fiddler's goal, giving him 2 helpers in as many games. It would be Hughson's second career shutout and capped off a big weekend for himself and the Chiefs as they knocked off 2 of the top teams not just in the WHL, but the entire CHL.
Now the boys head off on a 3 game road trip as they head to Everett on Wednesday and 2 huge games in Victoria on Friday and Saturday. Spokane is a point back of Tri City for 4th in the Conference and 5 points up on Victoria heading into the road swing, and with just 3 weeks left in the regular season, everyyy game is huge now. Spokane will have 5 straight at home after the road trip, and with a tough 2 games on the road at Tri and Portland to end the year, these next 8 games could make or break Spokane's chances of taking the 4th spot and having home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Wednesday's and Friday's games will be on 1510 KGA, with the pre-games at 6:30pm and the puck drop at 7pm. Saturday's game will be on 790 KJRB due to the Gonzaga game, with the same times on pre-game and puck drop. Let's hope the Chiefs show the same level of play on the road as they did at home last weekend and we'll see you on the radio!