Coming off 12 games in 18 days to start the second half of the season, the Chiefs got an unexpected break courtesy of Mother Nature. Spokane was slated to play Seattle on Wednesday at the Spokane Arena, but freezing rain and snow across most of the state of Washington made the highways like an ice rink. Snoqualmie Pass was closed due to fallen trees and ice, and the Thunderbirds had no way of getting to Spokane to play the game. The contest was postponed until Tuesday, January 24th and the Chiefs got a rare week where they didn't play a game from Monday through Thursday. Spokane had just 2 games to play over the weekend as they hosted Kootenay on Saturday at the Arena, and traveled to Everett for a late afternoon contest on Sunday.
Saturday's game with the Ice came in front of the largest crowd at the Spokane Arena this season, as over 9,500 fans came to see the Chiefs pick up their first home win of 2017. The Chiefs had dropped a shootout loss to the Ice at the Arena two weeks previous and were hoping to not only bounce back from that loss, but gain ground on Portland for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West. Portland had gained 2 points on the Chiefs during the week, and were now 4 up on Spokane entering Saturday's play. The Chiefs started quickly against Kootenay as the team put up 20 shots in the first period while holding the Ice to just 4. Spokane was only able to put one goal past goalie Jakub Walter as Eli Zummack's power play goal made it a 1-0 game after one. The Chiefs extended that lead to 2-0 on Kailer Yamamoto's team leading 29th of the season in the second, but had another goal waived off when replays showed Ondrej Najman's goal actually went off a high stick from Alex Mowbray midway through the period.
Kootenay would cut the lead in half early in the third on a Noah Philp goal, but the Chiefs would put the game away on a 3 goal explosion in the period. Ty Smith starting things with a power play goal at 9:59. Najman would get a goal that counted at 14:09 and Tyson Helgesen capped a 2 point night with his 7th of the season at 16:27 to blow the game open at 5-1. Kootenay would score in the final minute to make it a 5-2 final, but Spokane secured a big win in the standings with a 50 shot effort. Combine that with a 2-4 performance on the power play and a perfect 4-4 on the penalty kill and it was a rock solid way to start the weekend. With Portland losing in Kelowna, the Chiefs were now just 2 points back of the Winterhawks for the final playoff spot in the West as the Chiefs headed to Everett on Sunday.
Spokane had dropped 2 straight to the Silvertips in Everett over the past month, getting outscored 10-3, including a 5-0 shutout loss in Everett just 11 days earlier. It was just the second time the Chiefs had been blanked this season and Spokane was hoping for a much better result this time around. Everett had recorded a huge 4-2 win at second place Tri City the night before...this coming off a 1-0 shutout win over third place Seattle on Friday. Needless to say, the Chiefs were going to have their hands full with a Silvertips team playing their best hockey of the season. It certainly looked like it was going to be a long night for Spokane as Everett scored two goals in the first 7 minutes of the game to take a 2-0 lead after the first period. The Chiefs had out shot Everett 7-5 in the period, but coming back from a two goal deficit against the team that had yielded the fewest goals in the league looked like a long shot at best.
The Chiefs came out in the second period though and cut the lead in half as Hudson Elyniuk's 17th of the season came on a re-direct of a Keanu Yamamoto pass. Spokane would complete the comeback as Riley Woods scored a highlight reel goal at 16:30 to tie the game at two. The celebration was short lived as Everett scored a soft goal just 12 seconds later to take a 3-2 lead into the third. Things looked bleak as the Chiefs were just 2-21 when trailing after two periods this season. Spokane came right out and pulled even on the first shift of the third period though, as Jaret Anderson Dolan found Kailer Yamamoto for his team leading 30th goal of the year 31 seconds in to tie the game at three. Neither team got on the board for the rest of the period as the two teams headed to overtime for the third time in 6 games. The Chiefs dodged a bullet in overtime as they had to kill off an Everett power play chance, and for the third time this season, Spokane headed to a shoot out.
The Chiefs had gone 0 for 12 in shootout attempts in two previous games, but that changed in round one on this night. Riley Woods fired home a goal in round one to give Spokane a 1-0 lead after the first round. The Chiefs failed to score in the next two rounds, but Jayden Sittler stopped all three Everett chances to give the Chiefs their first shootout win of the season 4-3. The win evened the season series with Everett at 3-3 and pulled the Chiefs into a tie with Portland for the final playoff spot in the West. Now the team will see if they can keep it going as they head into a three game week. Spokane will start the week by hosting Seattle in a re-make of the game postponed last week on Tuesday. The Chiefs will then head to Kootenay on Friday before concluding the week at Tri City on Saturday. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA for Tuesday and Friday's games. Tuesday's pre-game is at 6:30pm with a puck drop at 7:05pm. Friday's game from Cranbrook, B.C. will have a 5:30pm pre-game and a 6pm start time. Saturday's game will be on 790 KJRB due to the Gonzaga game. The pre-game show starts at 6:30pm and puck drop at 7:05pm. Let's see if the Chiefs keep it up and we hope to see you at the rink!
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