Spokane Chiefs Blog: Staying perfect on the prairies
Posted on December 6, 2012 at 8:32 PM
With two wins in Swift Current and Regina under their belts, the Chiefs headed North to Prince Albert and Saskatoon for the middle portion of their 6 game Eastern Division swing. First up were the division leading Raiders, who had former Chiefs Anthony Bardaro and Davis Vandane in their lineup. It was the trade of Bardaro last year that stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest in Spokane, as Bards was leading the Chiefs in scoring at the time. Remember though, the two guys that came in the trade were starting goaltender Eric Williams and leading scorer Todd Fiddler. Let's just say the trade has worked out for both teams thus far. Bardaro was one of the top 5 scorers for P.A., while Fiddler was second in the league in goals and Williams was 3rd in the league in wins.
Both teams stats were pretty similiar entering the game, so a close, competitive game was probably going to be in store. It certainly proved to be that way. Prince Albert would jump out on a top on a power play goal from Reid Gardiner after a Chiefs turnover at 16:10 of the first to take a 1-0 lead. Spokane would answer with a Mike Aviani power play goal from Blake Gal and Brenden Kichton just 1:17 later to tie the game at one at the end of the first. That goal jump started the Chiefs in the second, as Aviani notched his second of the evening from Gal and Fiddler at 4:49 of the period to put Spokane ahead 2-1. Fiddler would then snap a shot from the left wing for his 22nd of the year from Reid Gow and Kichton at 10:37 to make it a 3-1 game. Aviani then secured his first hat trick of his career on a backhander at 12:56 on assists from Liam Stewart and Fiddler to put the Chiefs in command at 4-1. Prince Albert would get a rebound goal late in the second though, to cut the Chiefs lead to 4-2 after two.
That goal got the Raiders on track, as Dakota Conroy got P.A. back even. Conroy's power play goal just 44 seconds into the third brought the Raiders within 4-3. Then Bardaro set up Conroy for the second straight time at 7:26 and suddenly it was a 4-4 game and a contest that many, including myself thought would be...close late. It looked like the game would possibly heading to overtime, but the Chiefs suddenly found another gear in the final minutes. Aviani took a Gow pass and hit Collin Valcourt's stick net front with just 3:03 left to put Spokane up 5-4. Just 38 seconds later, Connor Chartier fed a trailing Liam Stewart in the slot and Stewart put home his 7th of the year to give the Chiefs a huge insurance goal and a 6-4 lead. Chartier would seal it with an empty netter while the Raiders had also pulled their goalie for an extra attacker with just 11.4 seconds to go to wrap up a deceptive 7-4 victory.
After blowing a 3 goal lead in the second, the Chiefs rebounded when it counted in the third to pick up their 3rd straight win on the trip. While going 1-2 on the power play, there was cause for concern with the penalty kill as Spokane gave up 2 power play goals after surrendering 3 in the previous game in Regina. Spokane knew they had to get a lottt better in that department as they headed back south to Saskatoon to take on a Blades team that had won 5 of 8 entering play on Wednesday. The Blades are the host team in this year's Memorial Cup, so they are hoping to get over their current .500 record and get some momentum in the second half of the season before playing for junior hockey's biggest trophy.
The Chiefs plowed their way through the snow of Saskatoon and came out ready to go from the puck drop against the Blades. Todd Fiddler put home his league leading 23rd of the season from Aviani and Jackson Playfair just 4:04 into the game to put the Chiefs up 1-0. Collin Valcourt and Connor Chartier set up Liam Stewart for his second goal in as many games at 6:53 and suddenly it was 2-0 Spokane. Spokane put up the first 11 shots of the contest on their way to outshooting Saskatoon 13-4 in the period, while also killing off 3 Blades power play chances. The Chiefs kept it going in the second as Blake Gal stole a puck net front and backhanded his 3rd goal of the season at 2:08 of the period to put the Chiefs in control at 3-0. Saskatoon would score on a rebound from Matej Stransky 3:01 later to cut the lead to 3-1, but goalie Eric Williams would turn back 14 of 15 Saskatoon shots in the second to keep it a 3-1 game after two.
In the third, Williams and the defense would keep the Blades off the board, as Saskatoon outshot Spokane 12-6 in the period. The Chiefs would get the only goal of the stanza as Dylan Walchuk stole the puck, hit Mitch Holmberg on the right wing, and Holmberg roofed his 16th goal of the year under the crossbar midway through the period to wrap up a 4-1 Chiefs victory. Despite being outshot 31-22 in the game, including 27-9 over the last periods, the Chiefs penalty kill went a perfect 6-6 to get their 4th straight win on the Eastern Division trip. Spokane has now won 5 straight overall for their longest win streak of the year and 7 of their last 8 to move within 4 points of Portland for first in the U.S. Division.
Spokane gets the day off Thursday before finishing up their longest road swing of the year with games at Brandon on Friday and Moose Jaw on Saturday. It's been over a decade since the Chiefs last win in Brandon and Saturday's game will mark the first for Spokane in Moose Jaw's new Mosaic Centre, which from what I hear, is quiteee a significant upgrade from the Warriors old rink, the 'Crushed Can'. I'll have the call Friday on 1510 KGA, with the pre-game show at 5pm Pacific and the puck drop at 5:30pm. Saturday's game will be on 790 KJRB, with the pre-game at 4:30pm, and the puck drop at 5pm. Let's hope the boys finish the trip strong and have a fun bus ride home. We'll see you on the radio!