The regular season schedule has rarely had the Chiefs playing a ton of games in the first couple of weeks and this year has been no exception. Three weeks into the year, the team had played all of 4 games, dropping 3 of them, including two straight at home over the past weekend. The casual schedule would come to an end last week though, as the Chiefs would play as many games as they had over 5 nights as they had the previous 3 weeks. Things would begin with a two game road trip...and a grueling one at that...as the team headed to Seattle and Kamloops on back to back nights.
Spokane would start on Tuesday in Seattle against the defending Western Conference champion Thunderbirds, who had beaten the Chiefs in all 4 games in Seattle last season. Spokane would go with new goalie Dawson Weatherill for the second straight start, after he had made an impressive debut in a 4-1 loss against Victoria the previous Saturday. Seattle had beaten that very same Victoria team 3-1 the night before in Kent, so the Chiefs knew they had their hands full come Tuesday. The first period would see Seattle out shoot the Chiefs 13-7, but Weatherill turned away every shot to keep the game scoreless after one. Spokane would break through in the second when Pavel Kousal scored his second goal of the year 6 minutes in to make it 1-0 Chiefs. Seattle would tie the game on a Scott Eansor goal just over 10 minutes later to make it 1-1 after two.
The third period would spell the difference and it started with the first shift. Kailer Yamamoto scored his team leading 4th goal of the year on a nice feed from his brother Keanu just 40 seconds in to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead. Weatherill would do the rest, turning away all 19 Seattle shots in the period, and the defense would kill off 2 Thunderbirds power plays to preserve the lead. Curtis Miske would wrap up the victory with an empty net goal in the final seconds, and Spokane picked up their first win in Seattle in two seasons by a 3-1 score. It was a great start to the week, as the team now headed to Kamloops to take on a Blazers squad who had knocked off the Chiefs in all 4 meetings the previous year.
Once again, the Chiefs went with Weatherill in net after his strong effort the night before. Things started great for Spokane as Keanu Yamamoto found an open Jaret Anderson-Dolan for a power play goal just 2:20 into the game to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. The Blazers would come back later in the period though, and would score 3 goals in less than 6 minutes to take a 3-1 advantage into the second. Spokane would get things going in the second period early on, but were unable to score. A turnover would lead to another Kamloops goal midway through the period to put the Blazers up 4-1. That goal would be the first of 3 in a 3:01 stretch that would blow the game open at 6-1. Weatherill would be relieved by Jayden Sittler after the fifth goal, and the Chiefs offense would go scoreless the rest of the way as Kamloops rolled to the easy 6-1 victory.
Spokane would then return home to finish the week as they faced the top two teams in the U.S. Division, Everett and Portland. First up were the second place Silvertips, who had just come off a 2 game sweep of the league's top team, Prince George, up in PG. One thing the Chiefs needed to have a chance was a good start, and they would get that in period one. Spokane out shot the Silvertips 10-4 in the first as they kept Everett back in their own defensive zone most of the period. In the second, a turnover by Spokane would lead to an Everett goal just 3:14 in to give the Tips a 1-0 lead. The Chiefs would convert their only power play of the game late in the period when Kailer Yamamoto scored off a 4 on 3 advantage at 16;02 to tie the game at one after two periods.
The Chiefs would seize their first lead of the game midway through the third when Yamamoto scored his second of the night to give Spokane a 2-1 advantage. The Chiefs were in control of the game late in the third when Hudson Elyniuk took a penalty for charging. It was originally given as a 2 minute minor, but after the referees talked in a conference, Elyniuk was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct. This call completely changed the complexion of the game, as Everett scored 2 power play goals 10 seconds apart to take a 3-2 lead late in the game. Spokane would take another minor penalty with 1:46 left, forcing the team to only be even strength when pulling Sittler from goal in the final minute and a half. The Chiefs would get the much needed goal when Markson Bechtold scored his first of the year at 18:52 in his first appearance since the season opener, to tie the game at three.
Spokane would finish killing off the Everett power play in overtime, but with the two teams even at 4 on 4, the Chiefs would suffer a breakdown defensively as former Chief Dominic Zwerger found an open Patrick Bajkov netfront for the game winner just 24 seconds into OT to hand Spokane a crushing 4-3 loss. The Chiefs deserved a much better fate, but the two late penalties completelyyy swung the game in Everett's favor and the Tips came away with two points they didn't really deserve. The Chiefs out shot and out possessed Everett most of the contest, and outside of the two power play goals late off a 5 minute penalty, the Silvertips generated little offensively. Spokane did come away with a point, but it was small solace as the team was now 10 points back of first place Everett in the division. Now the Chiefs had to bounce right back as they hosted second place Portland the next night at the Arena.
The Winterhawks had been idle since Wednesday when they finished their Eastern Division road trip with a win in Regina. Portland went 4-2 in the East and had featured a high powered offense, scoring more goals than any other team in the WHL. The Chiefs would need to play a tight, structured defensive team game if they hoped to end the week with a win. Spokane would come out doing just that as they limited Portland to just 9 shots and limited chances in the Chiefs defensive zone. The Chiefs would get on the board when Logan Foster found Koby Morrisseau for his first career goal at 17:44 of the first to give Spokane a 1-0 lead heading to the second period. In the second, Portland would draw even on a goal just over 5 minutes into the period to send the game to the third period all tied at one.
In the third, the Chiefs would regain the lead as Kailer Yamamoto found an open Curtis Miske net front at 7:25 to give Spokane a 2-1 advantage. Chiefs goalie Dawson Weatherill kept Spokane on top with several key saves in the third, but Portland would take advantage of some poor Chiefs coverage on a rush up ice and Cody Glass would score on a rebound at 16:55 to tie the game at two. The game would head to overtime and the two teams would keep the fans on the edge of their seats as they traded chances back and forth in the three on three format. Neither team would score in the OT though and for the first time this season, the Chiefs would head to a shootout. The two clubs failed to score in the first two rounds, and Spokane would come up empty again in the final third round. Portland's Caleb Jones would push the puck thorough the pads of Weatherill on Portland's final shootout attempt to give the Winterhawks a 3-2 shootout victory and hand Spokane their third straight loss on the week.
The good news, if there was any to be had, was the Chiefs gained 2 points in the final two losses, and have now moved a point ahead of Seattle for 4th place in the U.S. Division. Spokane will now try to salvage the final game of the three game home stand when they host Everett again on Tuesday at the Spokane Arena. Everett beat Seattle on Saturday and now own an 11 point lead over the Chiefs in the division, so Tuesday's game is almost a must win to keep Spokane within eyesight of the Silvertips. Spokane will then head out for a 6 game road trip through the East Division, starting with games at Regina and Brandon on Friday and Saturday. The Pats and Wheat Kings are considered the favorites in the East this season, so the road trip...and the week for that matter, will be a formidable task for the Chiefs. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA for all 3 games this week. Tuesday's game will have a 6:30pm pre-game and a 7:05pm puck drop. Friday from Regina, the pre-game will start at 4:30pm, with the puck dropping at 5pm Pacific time. Saturday's game from Brandon will be a half hour later with a 5pm pre-game and 5:30pm start. Let's hope the Chiefs get some success on the scoreboard to match their progress in their team game. Otherwise, it could be an even longerrr road trip. We hope to see you at the rink!