Spokane Chiefs Blog: The grind continues
Posted on January 29, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 6:01 AM
The month of January was a grind for the Chiefs, and they finished up their most demanding stretch of the schedule with 3 straight at home, with two against league leading Portland and then welcoming the Medicine Hat Tigers from the Eastern Conference on Saturday. Spokane had just snapped a 3 game losing streak with a win over Portland in the Rose City on Monday and were hoping to extend Portland's losing streak to 4 with a win on Wednesday at the Spokane Arena.
Fortunately for the Chiefs, goalie Eric Williams had his 'A' game going in the first period as he denied the Hawks on 12 of 13 shots, including a point blank chance from scoring forward Ty Rattie that Williams somehow slid across the crease to steal the goal. Portland would seize the early lead first though on a backhander from Adam DeChamplain at 16:30 of the first to take a 1-0 lead. Spokane didn't take long to respond though, as Dylan Walchuk finished off a 2-1 break at 17:27 to tie the game at one. The Chiefs would then take the lead just 56 seconds later on a Brenden Kichton goal from Walchuk to go up 2-1 after one.
Spokane was outshot 13-8 in the second, but managed the only goal of the period when rookie Adam Helewka snapped a wrister home midway through the period to take a 3-1 lead into the third. Rattie would score early in the third to bring the Winterhawks within 3-2, but Helewka would answer at 6:20 to put the Chiefs back up by 2 at 4-2. That lead would hold till Spokane went on the power play for the 3rd straight time in the period. While Spokane was on a 4 minute man advantage, the Chiefs coughed up a shorthanded goal at 15:13 to see their lead cut to 4-3. Portland used the momentum of that tally to get Rattie's second of the period just 1:19 later to tie the game at 4 and send the contest to overtime.
In OT, the Chiefs took a penalty to give Portland a 2 minute power play, but Williams turned away every Hawks shot in the overtime, 8 in all, as Spokane had just 1 shot on net in the 5 minute period. With the momentum squarely in Williams corner, the two teams went to the 3 round shootout. Neither team was able to break through in the first two rounds, but Kichton beat Winterhawks goalie Mac Carruth in round 3 to put Spokane up 1-0. Willams then shut the door on Portland rookie Oliver Bjorkstrand to close out a 41 save effort on the night to give the Chiefs a 5-4 shootout win and give Spokane their second straight victory over the league leaders.
Spokane would get a chance to sweep the 3 game set from Portland on Friday at the Arena. It became apparent from the dropping of the puck the Hawks were intent on snapping their 4 game losing streak and the Chiefs were certainly helping Portland's cause, as Spokane took all 5 penalties in the first period, helping the Hawks to 5 power plays and a shot advantage of 19-7. Portland would convert on 2 of the 5 chances as Rattie netted his 4th goal in 3 games against the Chiefs at 10:29 to put the Hawks up 1-0. WHL leading scorer Nick Petan then scored on a 5-3 power play at 17:22 to increase the lead to 2-0 after one.
Things looked like they would swing Spokane's direction in the second, as the Chiefs got 5 straight power play opportunities in the period. Unfortunately for Spokane, despite having a 15-8 shot advantage in the second, the Chiefs drew blanks as they failed to take advantage and ended up still on the short end of a 2-0 score. Spokane would get two more cracks at Portland on the power play and put up 14 more shots in the third, but Carruth and the Portland defense held Spokane at bay. The Hawks Brendan Leipsic, the 2nd leading scorer in the league then sealed the game with Portland's 3rd power play goal of the contest late in the third, and Spokane was shut out for the first time this season with a 3-0 loss.
Even bigger for Spokane was the loss of defenseman Tyler King and forward Jackson Playfair to injuries in the contest, leaving the Chiefs down 6 players for the following night's game with Medicine Hat. Spokane was already down defenseman Tanner Mort, and forwards Alessio Bertaggia, Adam Smith and Connor Chartier, so Spokane was looking at skating with just 10 forwards against the explosive Tigers, who came into the game off a 6-5 win in Tri Cities the previous night.
Backup goalie Garret Hughson got the start as the team gave Eric Williams a well deserved night off. Hughson was kept busy in the first, as the Tigers put up 16 shots, but the Spokane netminder kept Med Hat off the board. The Chiefs would break through late in the first as Todd Fiddler converted a Mike Aviani feed at 17:15 to put Spokane up 1-0 after one. In the second, the Chiefs peppered Tiger goalie Cam Lanigan with 22 shots, but failed to convert any of their chances. Medicine Hat meantime had just 7 shots on goal but scored twice as Boston Leier scored on a rush at 3:39 to tie the game at one. Hunter Shinkaruk then beat Hughson short side on one that Hughson would love to have back, and the Tigers somehow led it 2-1 after the second.
You had to figure if Spokane played the third period in the Tigers end of the ice as much as they did in the second, the Chiefs would come away with the 2 points. You would figure, right? Well, the Chiefs once again put up 22 shots in the third. Their first came off the stick of Todd Fiddler, who scored just 8 seconds into the third period to tie the game at two. The goal tied the franchise record for quickest goal scored to start a period. But as the team was celebrating that goal, the Tigers came right back and beat the Chiefs down the ice to re-take the lead at 2:29 of the third at 3-2.
Spokane's Blake Gal would score just 11 seconds later to re-tie the game for the Chiefs at 3-3. Three goals in 2:40 by the two teams had me thinking it was going to be a last team with the puck wins type of game. As it turns out, it was the next team that scored would win. Unfortunately for the Chiefs it wasn't them. Medicine Hat had just 2 power play opportunities all game, but would make the most of their last one in the third period. The Chiefs helped quite a bit too by having an awful line change as the Tigers brought the puck out of their zone. Lanigan found a wide open Curtis Valk at the Spokane blue line, and Valk walked in on a breakaway and beat Hughson at 7:54 of the third to give Med Hat a 4-3 lead.
As it turns out, that was the game. Spokane would have plentyyy of chances late to score, including pulling Hughson from net in the final 2 minutes to get the extra attacker on, but would fail to score on Lanigan, who turned aside a season high 55 shots in the Tigers in. Spokane put up 58 shots to Medicine Hat's 31...and lost 4-3. There were a lot of good things that came out of the game for Spokane, but in the end, the result was a loss. There was nooo question the Chiefs didn't do enough of the little things to win...like getting to rebounds, winning 1 on 1 battles on the boards, and getting net front traffic in front of Lanigan, who had a good view of shots all night long.
The Chiefs did put up a good effort for a team that was skating with just 10 forwards, but moral victories don't count last I checked. Now the team has to head back on the road to take on 2 of the top 3 teams in the West in Kamloops and Portland. Kamloops is the team directly ahead of Spokane in the standings, so it's a must win for the Chiefs if they hope to make a move on the Blazers. Then it will be an allll night ride to Portland for a Saturday meeting in the Rose City, the two teams 4 game against each other in the last 2 weeks. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA on Friday beginning at 6:30, with the puck drop at 7pm. Saturday's game from Portland will be on 790 KJRB witth the times the same as Friday's game. It will be a toughhh road trip, opponent and travel wise. Let's hope the boys are up to the task and we'll see you on the radio!