Spokane Chiefs Blog: Back on track

With a grueling stretch of 6 games in 9 nights, including 4 games in 5 behind them, the Chiefs got a chance to recover a bit as they stayed home for just 2 games last week. Spokane came into the week in last place in the U.S. Division, but were just one point back of 4th place Seattle and 2 behind third place Tri City, so the Chiefs could make some quick headway in the division race with a pair of wins. Spokane was still without goalie Dawson Weatherill and forward Eli Zummack, who were both out with injuries. Brkin had been fairly impressive in his first two starts, going 1-1 against Prince George and Everett, as he was back in net Wednesday when the Chiefs hosted Brandon. The Wheat Kings had just recently fallen out of the CHL Top 10 after being ranked for most of the first half of the season. Brandon was starting a 7 game road trip and were coming off an overtime loss at home to Medicine Hat, while the Chiefs were hoping to bounce back from a 5-2 loss at home to Everett.

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The Chiefs hopped out to an early 1-0 lead when Kailer Yamamoto tipped a Jaret Anderson-Dolan shot in at 14:40 of the first period. Yamamoto then found an open Ethan McIndoe for his 12th goal of the season at 18:34 of the period to give the Chiefs a 2-0 edge after one. Milos Fafrak would extend the lead to 3-0 with his 6th goal of the season late in the second period. Brkin would stop a point blank chance from Brandon's Evan Weinger in the final minute of the second to keep the three goal margin and give the Chiefs a boost heading into the third. Brkin would finish off his first career shutout by turning aside all 21 Wheat Kings shots on the night as the Chiefs penalty kill would finish a perfect 5-5 on the game. The shutout was Brkin's first of his career and was the Chiefs third as a team this season. Spokane still remained in 5th in the U.S., a point back of both Seattle and Tri City heading into the weekend.

Saturday's game with Tri City would see the Chiefs three points back of both the Americans and Seattle after both teams had won on Friday night. It just goes to show the Chiefs have to be playing at a high level the rest of the season if they hope to move up in the division standings as the rest of U.S. teams will not be going into any slumps any time soon. The contest against the Americans would also prove to be the last for Brkin, as he went back to Canada to resume playing with his team in Alberta. Brkin is listed as an affiliate player, so since he's not on the permanent roster, he's limited to just playing 10 games with Spokane. Saturday's game was #4, so the team is saving his number of games for later in the season. The Chiefs would help Brkin get off to a good start as Ethan McIndoe scored just 4:39 into the game off a rebound to give Spokane a quick 1-0 lead. Spokane would build on the lead when Jake McGrew scored a power play goal late in the first to stake the Chiefs to a 2-0 advantage after one.

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Things were looking pretty good at that point for Spokane and they would improve early in the second when Zach Fischer notched his 20th goal of the year at 4:32 to give the Chiefs a commanding 3-0 lead. Just as quickly as the Chiefs chances for a win looked good, the lead would be cut to one in just a 1:43 period midway through the second, as the Ams scored two quick goals to make it a 3-2 game after two. Brkin would protect the lead with a magnificent save early in the third on a Morgan Geekie point blank chance and the Chiefs would take advantage of the new life as Luke Toporowski scored his third of the season midway through the third to give Spokane a 4-2 lead. Just when it looked like Spokane would cruise in for the win, the Americans stormed back yet again as Tri City scored two goals just 1:12 apart late in the third to even the game at 4 apiece. Spokane was unable to get the game winner in regulation, as the Americans would end up gaining a valuable point in the standings.

The Chiefs were able to salvage the win, and save themselves for a devastating loss, when Kailer Yamamoto stole the puck from Geekie and would go the other end and score unassisted just 47 seconds into overtime to give Spokane a huge 5-4 OT victory. The win was Spokane's third straight in overtime over Tri City and evened the season series at 3-3. Keep in mind, the head to head series is the first tie break at the end of the year, and could prove to be huge as far as seeding between the two come playoff time. The Chiefs did gain a point on Tri City in the standings, but with Seattle's shootout win over Swift Current, Spokane remains in 5th in the division; one point back of Tri City and 2 behind Seattle. With Brkin departing, Dawson Weatherill will be back in net regularly for Spokane. Brkin was impressive in his brief stint in Spokane and has served notice to the Chiefs other two netminders, Weatherill and Donovan Buskey, that if their performances are sub-par, Brkin will be there back in net in no time.

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After a light two game week at home, the Chiefs now embark on a 4 game schedule this week, with the last three on the road. The Chiefs will be without defenseman Ty Smith for the first two games of the week, as he'll be playing in the Top Prospects game on Thursday in Ontario. A huge loss for sure. Spokane will close out a 5 game home stand Tuesday when they host Swift Current, the 2nd place team in the East and #4 in the CHL. The Chiefs then head out on a season long 7 game road trip, starting with an overnight trip to Vancouver for Spokane's only journey to Langley, B.C. this season on Wednesday. The week will conclude with games at Tri City and Everett on Saturday and Sunday. Huge games in the standings, and a huge challenge for Spokane going into February. This 7 game road trip will be the contend or pretend part of the season for the Chiefs as they either make a move up the standings of fall further behind division leaders Everett and Portland. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday's games will see the puck drop at 7:05 pm, while Sunday's game in Everett will be a 4:05 pm start. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, with the pre-game shows at 6:30 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, and at 3:30 pm on Sunday. Saturday's game from Tri City will be on 94.1 FM the Bear due to Gonzaga basketball. Another big week for Spokane, and we hope to see you at the rink!