Spokane Chiefs Blog: Big January in the books

Spokane Chiefs Blog: Big January in the books

Credit: Gary Peterson

Spokane Chiefs Blog: Big January in the books

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by Mike Boyle, "The Voice of the Spokane Chiefs"

KREM.com

Posted on February 1, 2012 at 10:02 PM

With their most successful weekend of the season under their belts with a three game sweep of Tri City and Portland, the Chiefs headed back on the road to begin another 3 games in 4 nights stretch as they began their week in Everett against the Silvertips. It was the last of the 10 game regular season series between the two, and it was one final chance to achieve a winning record against the Tips on their home ice, as the two teams had split 4 previous encounters. The last time the Chiefs faced the Silvertips in Everett, Spokane had melted down in the third, blowing a 3 goal lead and then the game 4-3 in overtime. There was no question the team wanted to wash thattt taste out of their mouths in this contest.

Everett took early control though, as a Ryan Murray slap shot from the point beat Chiefs goalie Mac Engel just over 5 minutes into the game to give Everett an early 1-0 lead. Spokane didn't flinch though, as Todd Fiddler banged home a rebound of a Brenden Kichton shot on the power play less than 3 minutes later to pull the Chiefs into a 1-1 tie after one. Spokane would take advantage of a 4 minute double minor penalty on Everett's Jordyn Boyd early in the second period when Steve Kuhn would get the puck over Everett goalie Austin Lotz in a net front scramble to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead after two.

Darren Kramer would tip a Davis Vandane shot midway thorough the third period to give the Chiefs a hugeee insurance goal and a 3-1 lead. The goal would be magnified when the Tips Josh Birkholz scored at 15:58 of the third to bring Everett within 3-2. Everett would pull Lotz from the net with just over a minute and a half left, but the Spokane defense did not give up a shot to the Silvertips in the final minute. Kuhn would cap the 4-2 win with an empty net goal from Blake Gal with a second left as the Chiefs ended their series going 8-1-1 against the Tips, including 3-1-1 in Everett. The win ran the Chiefs winning streak to 4 straight as the team headed back home to host Portland.

The Chiefs and Winterhawks faced off for the 3rd time in a week in Spokane as the teams squared off on Friday night. Spokane swept a two game series from the Hawks the previous weekend, outscoring Portland 11-3 in the process. Taking three in a row would prove to be a formidable challenge for the Chiefs as they hoped to close the gap on the second place Winterhawks. The first period was back and forth as the Chiefs outshot the Hawks 13-9, but neither team was able to get on the board in a period that saw no penalties.

Dylan Walchuk would snap a shot from the right circle just over two minutes into the second period to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Portland would counter on a Cam Reid goal just over two minutes later to tie the game at one. Brad Ross would then give the Winterhawks a 2-1 lead midway through the second as Spokane had to come from behind in the third. The Chiefs would do just that as Darren Kramer would score net front with just 4:03 left to tie the game at two and send the game to overtime. The two teams would trade chances in the OT until Ross would come in clean after a change by the Hawks and would rip a shot past goalie Eric Williams at 3:38 of overtime to give Portland their second overtime win over Spokane this year at 3-2.

The loss spoiled a terrific effort by Williams as he turned away 33 Portland shots in the contest, many of them quality chances that could have blown the game open for the Hawks. Williams efforts though did earn Spokane a point, which was huge, as the Chiefs pulled into a tie with Vancouver for 4th place in the Western Conference playoff race. The fourth seed is the final home ice advantage spot in the first round, so it's a huge spot for the Chiefs to achieve. If there was one good thing about the loss, the team didn't have a lot of time to reflect on it, as the Chiefs were right back on the ice the following night against the defending league champion Kootenay Ice.

The first period looked like the team was still in a funk from the loss the night before, as goalie Mac Engel served up 3 goals on just 6 Kootenay shots in the first as the Ice would take a commanding 3 goal lead after 20 minutes despite the Chiefs outshooting Kootenay in the period. The Chiefs would show what they were made of in the second, as the dominated the period, outshooting the Ice 18-4. Spokane would get back in the game when Todd Fiddler took a Mitch Holmberg pass net front and roofed it past Kootenay goalie Nate Lieuwen midway through the period. Marek Kalus would then tip a Brenden Kichton shot late in the second to draw Spokane within 3-2 after two.

In the third, Kootenay would extend the lead to 4-2 when Joe Antilla scored his second of the game on a shot from the right wing. Just as things looked dire for the Chiefs, Kootenay's Jesse Ismond drew a 4 minute double minor penalty for spearing and Spokane went on the power play. Corey Baldwin would convert a rebound of a Liam Stewart shot at 14:31 of the period to draw within 4-3. The Arena was jumping and would explode with just 2:54 to go when Mike Aviani found Darren Kramer open on the far post to even the game at 4-4. It was the second straight game Kramer scored in the third to force overtime and the Chiefs were hoping for a better result than the night before against Portland.

The result would be better as Brenden Kichton would take a Dylan Walchuk pass inside the Ice blue line and snap one top shelf past Lieuwen 3:10 into overtime to cap an improbable 5-4 overtime win. It was a tremendous win for Spokane as they got ready to head out on a two game road trip to Seattle and Kamloops. First up would be the Thunderbirds, who beat Spokane with a 2 goal third period January 16th by a final of 3-2. It's safe to say it was not one of Spokane's finer games of the season, so I was curious to see how the team would come out for this one.

The Chiefs would take advantage of their first power play of the night when Dominick Uher would score from the right wing midway through the first to give Spokane an early 1-0 lead. It was the beginning of what would be a huge night for Uher. As they would do throughout the game, Seattle would storm right back. The Thunderbirds Connor Honey scored a power play goal on Seattle's only man advantage of the period to tie the game at one after the first. The second period would be more of the same. Once again Uher put Spokane on the board with a tip of a Cole Wedman shot early in the period to make it 2-1 Chiefs. Again, Seattle would come back and tie as Seth Swenson scored on a rebound late in the period to even the game at two after two periods.

Despite outshooting Seattle by a 29-13 margin after two, the Chiefs found themselves in a contest that would be decided by the final 20 minutes. As it turns out, Spokane would need almost all 20 to decide matters. Spokane's Dylan Walchuk found Brenden Kichton open on a rush while the two teams were on a 4-4 midway through the third, and the Chiefs defenseman, who leads all D-men in the WHL in scoring, made sure with a shot top shelf to give Spokane a 3-2 lead. Back would come the T-Birds again, as a Dillon Wagner tally would tie the game at three with less than 5 minutes to go. Just as it looked like the two teams were staring at overtime, Walchuk dug a puck off the wall by the Seattle blue line, fed an open Uher, and Dom roofed it over Seattle goalie Calvin Pickard with just 1:12 left to put the Chiefs up 4-3.

Seattle would pull Pickard in the final minute, but Uher would cap a career high 4 goal evening with an empty netter with 8.1 seconds left to give the Chiefs a hard earned 5-3 win. Spokane outshot Seattle 39-22 and needed every one of them to put away a pesky Seattle club. One thing I do know though, the  team will have to play a lot better to have a shot against the league's top team in Kamloops on Wednesday. The Chiefs have lost both meetings to the Blazers and it will take a similar effort that the team had against Tri City and Portland two weekends ago to have a shot on the Blazers home rink.

I'll have the call on 1510 KGA beginning at 6:30, with the puck drop at 7. The Chiefs are in the middle of 5 games in 7 days that started with the Tuesday game in Seattle. Spokane will return home to face Victoria Friday night at 7:05pm. Coverage will start with the pre-game show on 1510 at 6:30pm. On Saturday, the Chiefs head up to Cranbrook, B.C. for a rematch with the Kootenay Ice. If the game is half as good as the last meeting, it will be worth the trip North. Saturday's game is on 790 KJRB due to Gonzaga on 1510. Pre-game is at 5:30pm with the puck drop at 6pm. Spokane will close out their busy week with a home game against Seattle on Monday night at 7:05pm. We're back on 1510 beginning with the pre-game at 6:30pm.

The Chiefs are coming off a veryyy productive January, winning 11 games out of 15 and earning points in 13. February will be just as busy, with 14 games in 29 days. Let's hope the boys are just as good in this second month of 2012, and we hope to see you at the rink!

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