It was bound to happen. There was no way the Chiefs were going to go 36-0 on home ice this season, but the wayyy they lost their first game at home to Tri-City last Saturday night still left a bad taste in the mouth. Fortunately, for the Chiefs they rebounded with a solid effort the following night to hand Everett their third straight loss at the Spokane Arena. The split against U.S. Division rivals kept the Chiefs in third place in the division as they prepared for a two game road swing to Portland.
Getting back to Saturday's loss to the Americans. It was apparent from the puck drop that the Chiefs were not ready to play and the Americans were moreee than ready to take advantage. Jordan Messier took a puck off his chest and it went past Spokane goalie Mac Engel to give the Ams a 1-0 lead. It would remain that way until the 12:47 mark of the period when Engel played a Messier shot to the stick of Nate McMaster, who slammed it into the open net to give Tri a 2-0 lead. It wasn't a good goal in the goalie world and the next one didn't help either, as Adam Hughesman chased down a loose puck and one timed it past Engel's glove to make it 3-0 just 58 seconds after McMaster's tally. That led to Engel departing the contest, and backup Luke Lee-Knight stepping in for the rest of the first period.
The Chiefs settled things down on the scoreboard in the second, but didn't show a lot of offensive initiative in the period either. The whole night the team looked disjointed, with passes missing on the attack, and not a lot of energy in the skating or the forecheck. Spokane would break through though when Mike Aviani scored his first of the season on a rebound of a Davis Vandane shot with just 25 seconds left in the period to cut the Tri-City lead to 3-1 after two periods.
In the third, Spokane didn't sustain the momentum of the goal from the end of the second, as the Chiefs managed just 6 shots in the period to take the home crowd right out of the game. Tri-City would cap a 4-1 win with McMaster's second goal of the night on a tip late in the third to hand the Chiefs their first home loss of the season, and drop the Chiefs seven points behind the Ams and Portland for first place in the division.
Fortunately for Spokane, they didn't have a lot of time to mope around about the Tri-City loss, as they hosted Everett the very next night at the Arena. The two teams had played twice previously, with the Chiefs winning both games in come from behind fashion. The biggest thing for Spokane coming off their effort the previous night was to come out with much more energy and take an early lead to dictate the tempo of the game. The Chiefs did just that as Carter Proft scored his first goal as a Chief 7:33 into the contest to make it 1-0 Spokane. Proft was acquired earlier in the week from Brandon for a draft pick and made an impact in just his second game for Spokane. Spokane would extend the lead to 2-0 on a Mitch Holmberg power play goal midway through the first to make it 2-0 after one. It was a completely different Spokane team on the ice this night, as the team showed muchhh more cohesion and energy.
Everett would cut the lead to 2-1 on a 5-3 power play goal just 3 minutes into the second period. The Chiefs would counter that goal with Aviani's second in as many nights as he poked a rebound through the pads of Everett goalie Kent Simpson to give the Chiefs a 3-1 lead after two periods. In the third, Spokane just exploded, putting up a season high 5 goals on 23 shots to pull away to an 8-1 win. Jarid Hauptman started the explosion with his first WHL goal 5:14 into the third to make it 4-1. Anthony Bardaro would tally on a rebound 1:22 later to boost it to 5-1. Just 15 seconds later, Aviani scored his second of the night to blow things open at 6-1.
Dominick Uher would snap one home from the left side to open the lead up to 7-1 late in the third. Uher would be cross checked to the wall on a cheap shot by Everett defenseman Lukas Grayson and knocked out of the game after the goal. Uher was helped off of the ice and will miss this weekend's games in Portland as a result. Grayson will no doubt be suspended by the league, a suspension that should be handed down Wednesday. That was the one down moment of the night for the Chiefs. Spokane would score on the ensuing power play, as Tyler King scored his first WHL goal with just over a minute left to cap an 8-1 win.
It was a great turnaround for Spokane, but the loss of Uher will be felt. Let's just hope the rest of the forwards circle the wagons as it were, as they go into the rest of November. Spokane also reassigned forward Cody Nelson back to his team in the MJHL in Manitoba, so playing time will be there for those who want it.
Up next is the Portland Winterhawks, who have knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs the last two seasons, including a 4-2 series win in last year's Western Conference Finals. Spokane is searching for their first road win of the year, and will face Portland back to back nights Friday and Saturday. Friday's game will be on 790 KJRB due to the Gonzaga game, with the pregame at 6:30 and the puck drop at 7pm. Saturday's game is an early one, with the puck drop at 5pm. I'll be back on 1510 KGA with the pregame at 4:30pm from the Rose Garden, and we hope you'll tune in!