It was safe to say the Chiefs were coming into their third weekend of the season in a lot better frame of mind than the second one. After getting hammered in their season opener at Tri City, the Chiefs had rebounded for a nice 5-2 win over the Americans in their home opener. Coming off that victory, Spokane stayed at home at the Arena to host two teams out of the division in Lethbridge and Victoria over the weekend. Both games would be stern tests for a young Spokane squad, as the Hurricanes were the defending Central Division champions, while the Royals were the defending Scotty Munro Trophy winners as the best team in the regular season last year. Both teams were veteran laden outfits and had been playing well of late, so the Chiefs would have to play similar to the type of hockey they played in the third period against Tri City when Spokane scored 3 goals to snap a 2-2 tie the previous Saturday.
First up was Lethbridge on Friday night as Chiefs goaltender Jayden Sittler faced his former team for the first time since being traded by the Canes to the Chiefs in the off-season. The first period was less than ideal for Spokane as the team took a quick penalty and Lethbridge quickly took advantage. Tyler Wong's power play goal just 2:59 in gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead. Spokane then took 3 minor penalties in less than 30 seconds to put Lethbridge on a 5 on 3 advantage. Wong would net his second goal of the game at 17:01 to make it a 2-0 game and then the Canes would score just 33 seconds later on the power play to go up 3-0. Just as it looked like the Chiefs would get blown out of the building, Spokane killed off the remainder of the Lethbridge power play and then scored with just 16 seconds left in the period on Pavel Kousal's first career goal to narrow the deficit to 3-1 after one.
Spokane was now in a position to build off that momentum to start the second period, but an errant pass would lead to a Lethbridge breakaway goal to put the Chiefs down 4-1. The Chiefs went on the power play just over a minute later and would convert the chance when Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored at 4:17 of the period to cut the lead in half at 4-2. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Lethbridge would score the back breaking goal when Sittler let a puck thrown in from half ice squirt through his pads at the 7:30 mark to give the Hurricanes a 5-2 lead. That goal would spell the end of a below average night in net for Sittler, as he gave up 5 goals on just 13 shots. Dawson Weatherill would make his debut and shut out Lethbridge for the rest of the night, and the Chiefs would cut the Canes advantage on a Keanu Yamamoto power play goal late in the second to put Spokane within 5-3 heading into the third period.
Unfortunately, despite out shooting Lethbridge 10-3 in the third, and 26-8 over the final two periods, the Chiefs would draw no closer on this night as the Hurricanes secured their first win in Spokane since 2003. Spokane went a nice 2-5 on the power play, but Lethbridge scoring 3 power play goals early put the Chiefs in a hole they could never dig out. Sittler's struggles in net didn't aid the cause either as Spokane ended up out chancing the Hurricanes 33-18, but still lost by 2. The Chiefs didn't have a lot of time to re-group either, as the team welcomed the club that knocked them out of the playoffs last year in the Victoria Royals on Saturday. Victoria had lost the previous night in Seattle 3-1, so they were going to be more than ready to turn things around against the Chiefs.
After relieving Sittler the night before in net, Weatherill got his first start between the pipes for Spokane the next night against Victoria. The first period proved to be pretty even as the Royals out shot the Chiefs 10-7. Victoria would break through in the final two minutes of the period though, off a 4 on 4 situation to take a 1-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. The Chiefs would fail to clear the puck out of their own zone early in the period and Tyler Soy would snap up the loose puck net front and roof home a goal just over 4 minutes into the second to make it 2-0 Victoria. The lead would hold through the rest of the stanza as the Chiefs failed to score on a 5 on 3 chance late in the period. It would be a missed opportunity Spokane would regret.
In the third, the Chiefs would get back in the game as Ty Smith scored his first career goal at 6:22 to pull Spokane within 2-1. The Chiefs would get a power play opportunity midway through the period to tie, but would fail to score as Spokane's power play, the top rated in the league coming in, failed to score in 4 chances. Victoria then put the game away on a missed Chiefs defensive assignment as Matthew Phillips scored on a breakaway at 14:44 to make it 3-1, and then Soy scored with the Chiefs net empty in the final minute to put away a 4-1 Royals win. Spokane put up 16 shots in the third, and out shot Victoria 35-34, but ended up on the short end of the scoreboard for the second straight night.
The Chiefs have now lost 3 of their first 4 games this season and sit in last place in the U.S. Division, 8 points back of first place Portland. After playing just 4 contests in the first three weeks of the year, Spokane will play 4 games this week in 5 nights. The Chiefs will start on the road with back to back games at Seattle and Kamloops on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Spokane will then return home for back to back home games with division rivals Everett and Portland on Friday and Saturday nights at the Spokane Arena. It's a big week for the Chiefs confidence wise, as the team will embark on their 6 game Eastern Division road trip the following week. The last thing Spokane wants to see happen is the team fall in a huge hole in the standings before heading out on their longest road trip of the season. All 4 of next week's games will be on 1510 KGA starting with the pre-game shows. Puck drops will be at 7:05pm and I hope to see you at the rink!