The Chiefs bi-annual trek through the Western Hockey League's Eastern Division had not...in the world's greatest understatement...started all that well. Spokane had dropped back to back games at Regina and Brandon by a combined score of 10-2, giving up 5 short handed goals in that span and to top it off, had been shut out for the first time this season. No where to go but up, right? The reality of it all though, was the toughest stretch for the team was still ahead of them. After two days off in Regina on Sunday and Monday, the team headed to Moose Jaw on Tuesday to start a 4 games in 5 nights stretch to finish off their trip through the East. The Warriors were off to a good start, having gone 7-2-2 in their first 11 games, good enough for third in the division. Spokane had dropped 5 of their last 6, albeit two of the defeats coming in overtime or a shootout, but still losses in the column.
The Chiefs worst loss of the season had come in their previous game, as they had been whitewashed in Brandon 6-0. How the team would come out in Moose Jaw remained to be seen. Spokane had won their previous 3 games against the Warriors, including a 5-2 win in Spokane last season. The game would also be the first time the team would face their former teammate Matt Sozanski after his off season trade to the Warriors. Sozanski would come out on the first shift of the game and throw a pass off his teammate Brett Howden and into the Chiefs net just 14 seconds into the game to give the Warriors a quick 1-0 lead. That lead held up through the first period as Spokane managed just 6 shots despite having 6 minutes of power play time in the first.
The deficit would quickly be erased in the second as defenseman Jeff Faith scored his first career goal just 26 seconds into the period to tie the game at one. Hudson Elyniuk would give the Chiefs the lead with his second of the season at 1:08 to make it 2-1 Spokane. Kailer Yamamoto then added his team high 8th goal of the year at 3:25 to give the Chiefs a 3-1 advantage. Moose Jaw would score just 14 seconds after Yamamoto's goal to cut the lead to 3-2 after two periods. Spokane would come out in the third and get a two goal cushion as Keanu Yamamoto scored just 46 seconds into the period to give the Chiefs a 4-2 advantage. Tanner Wishnowski would score his first goal as a Chief on a tip of a Jordan Henderson shot at 1:27 to make it 5-2 Spokane. Elyniuk would cap a two goal, three point night with a power play goal at 11:19 to cap off a 6-2 Chiefs win.
Spokane out shot Moose Jaw 17-6 in the third and 31-21 in the game to pick up their first win on the Eastern trip. The Chiefs have now won 4 in a row over the Warriors and were hoping to continue their streak against their next opponent, the Saskatoon Blades.
Spokane had won 6 in a row over the Blades, but were coming off a game the night before while Saskatoon had been off since Saturday when they lost 2-1 at Prince George. The Chiefs didn't have a lot of time to celebrate their win over Moose Jaw, but one thing they did need was a good start to get things rolling in Saskatoon. Spokane would get just that in the first, as Ethan McIndoe would score on the power play at 10:43 of the first to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead after one. The team would come out quickly in the second as well, as Trent Huitema scored his first career goal at 3:07 of the period to give Spokane a 2-0 advantage. Kailer Yamamoto would add to the margin as he scored at 9:51 to give the Chiefs a 3-0 lead. Spokane's penalty kill would knock off 6 Saskatoon power play chances in the period to keep the Blades at bay, but Saskatoon would score in the final 3 minutes of the period to cut the Chiefs lead to 3-1 after two.
In the third, Spokane would strike in the first 42 seconds as Yamamoto scored his second of the game off a 4 on 4 situation to put the Chiefs up 4-1. Riley McKay would score his first career goal at 2:17 on Taylor Ross' first assist of the season to give Spokane a 5-1 lead. Former Chief Kolten Olynek would tally for Saskatoon at 4:53 of the third to bring the Blades within 5-2, but the Chiefs would cap the scoring on Pavel Kousal's third of the season at 9:43 to wrap up a 6-2 Spokane win. For the second straight game, the Chiefs put up 30 shots on net, but the real key was the team's penalty kill as Spokane went 9 for 9. I don't ever recall the Chiefs turning aside that many power plays from an opponent in a game before. The team definitely turned things around on the trip though, as Spokane would take their 2-2 record through the East to Prince Albert on Friday for game 5 of the journey.
The Raiders entered Friday's game in last place in the division, but had played well in stretches in the early part of the season. In a division as balanced as the East, any team can beat you on any night. The Chiefs were still trying to find a consistent team game as they hoped to get their first 3 game winning streak of the young season. Spokane would go back to Jayden Sittler in net after he picked up his second win of the year at Moose Jaw on Tuesday. He was hardly tested in the first, as the Chiefs gave up just 4 shots in the opening frame. Spokane got off only 7 shots as the two teams were scoreless after one. Spokane would break out in the second period as Ethan McIndoe scored his 3rd goal in 5 games with a rebound just over 3 minutes in to make it 1-0 Chiefs. Jeff Faith would add his second of the trip just over 2 minutes later to make it 2-0 Spokane. Jaret Anderson-Dolan would cap a 3 goal period with his fifth of the year midway through to give the Chiefs a 3-0 advantage heading into the third.
Prince Albert would get on the board with a power play goal midway through the third to cut Spokane's lead to 3-1. Hudson Elyniuk would answer right away for the Chiefs though, as he scored 14 seconds after the Raiders goal to put Spokane back up at 4-1. Prince Albert would get their second power play goal of the night with just 13 seconds left to round out the scoring, but it was the Chiefs that got the win at 4-2. The victory was Spokane's third straight, their longest winning streak of the season, as the team pulled back to .500 at 6-6-1-1 and are now 4-4 on the road. The win also pulled the Chiefs to within 2 points of third place Portland, as the team will have a chance to pull even with a victory in Swift Current and a Portland loss in regulation on Saturday.
Spokane had to take care of business first in Swift, as they took on a Broncos team that had lost at home the night before to Seattle 2-1. You just knew Swift would be smarting after that defeat, so the Chiefs knew they had to come out and play as well as they did in the second period in Prince Albert to have a shot against the second place Broncos from the East. Things didn't start so well for the Chiefs as the Broncos scored midway through the first period to jump out to a 1-0 lead. Spokane would bounce right back though as Evan Fiala tallied his first goal of the year at 14:24 to tie the game up at one. Swift Current would get a power play goal on a rebound with just 8 seconds remaining in the first though to take a 2-1 lead after one.
Neither team scored in a slower paced second period as the Chiefs put up only 6 shots after a 17 shot first. Spokane got things going offensively in the third though, as the team got 20 shots on goal. The Chiefs would get back even when Tanner Wishnowski scored on a rebound at 8:57 of the third to tie it up at 2-2. Spokane got a power play in the final 2 minutes, but a shot from Curtis Miske rang off the post to send the game to overtime. In the OT, Spokane out shot Swift 4-2, but a defensive breakdown by the Chiefs allowed Tyler Steenbergen, the Broncos leading goal scorer, to walk in and score with just 30 seconds left in overtime to give Swift a 3-2 win. It was a pretty disappointing end to a game in which the Chiefs out shot the Broncos 47-26. I guess in the end though, to come away with a point in the 4th game in 5 nights...and to get 7 out of the 8 points overall...is pretty darn good.
On the whole, the trip went well. After a rocky start in which the team was out scored 10-2 in the first two games, to win three in a row and get a point in an overtime loss is a nice bounce back. The team seemed to find its' game, and guys began to understand their roles on the club. The big thing now will be, can the Chiefs continue to build on this foundation and carry through during an upcoming 6 game homestand? Spokane will play 9 of its' 10 games in November at home, so it's a greatttt chance to make up some ground in the U.S. Division. The Chiefs will get most of the next 2 weeks off, as the team hosts two games at the Arena next Friday and Saturday. The Red Deer Rebels will be first up on Friday night, followed by the rival Tri City Americans on Saturday. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA starting with the pre-game shows at 6:30pm and the puck drops at 7:05pm. It will certainly be good to be home, and we hope to see you at the rink to support the boys!