It hasn't really sunk in for me that the Chiefs have less than 2 months left in their regular season. The calendar doesn't lie though, and Spokane is running out of time if they hope to make a major move up the standings in the always rugged U.S. Division. After winning two straight games at home over Brandon and Tri City, the Chiefs headed into a 4 games in 6 nights stretch, with 3 of those contests on the road. Spokane would do so without their top defense man Ty Smith, who was off to the Top Prospects Game being played on Thursday. The Chiefs also bid adieu to goalie Bailey Brkin, who had to be returned to his club in Canada in the Alberta Junior League because he's an affiliated player and not part of the permanent Spokane roster. The Chiefs had an agreement to return Brkin after starting goalie Dawson Weatherill came back from injury, which Weatherill would do on Tuesday at home against Swift Current. If Weatherill could approach Brkin's performance over the last 4 games, in which Brkin went 3-1 with a goals against of 2.51, the Chiefs would be thrilled.
First up would be the 4th ranked team in the CHL in the Broncos, who had gone 2-1-0-1 in their first 4 games of their 5 game journey through the U.S. Division. Swift boasted the best power play in the league, and had the second best record in the WHL entering Tuesday. A win over the Broncos by the Chiefs would cap a 6-0 record through the East Division for Spokane, quite a feat when you look at the top 4 teams in the division in Moose Jaw, Swift, Brandon and Regina. Spokane also came into the game without forward Eli Zummack, who was still out with an injury. A good start is always nice if you're looking for a win, and the Chiefs would get just that when Kailer Yamamoto scored on a rebound just 31 seconds into the game to make it 1-0 Spokane. Swift would equalize later in the period though with their top rated league power play to even the contest at 1 apiece. The Chiefs came right back though and re-took the lead on a Filip Kral goal just 47 seconds later to take a 2-1 lead after the first period.
Swift Current would tie the score once again just over 4.5 minutes into the second period as game was tied at two. Spokane appeared to take the lead late in the second on a Luke Gallagher goal, but it was waived off on a questionable goalie inablilty to play the puck call on the Chiefs Ethan McIndoe. Spokane wasn't fazed by the wave off though, as the Chiefs came back a couple minutes later and took the lead...for good it turned out...as McIndoe got a bit of justice as he was credited on a goal that went off the skate of Swift Current defense man Josh Anderson at 16:15 of the period to make it 3-2 Spokane after two. The Chiefs added a huge insurance goal midway through the third when Kral notched his second of the game, and his first multi-goal effort to give the Chiefs a 4-2 advantage. Swift would pull their goalie in the final 2 minutes, and after the Chiefs took back to back penalties, the Broncos had a 6 on 3 advantage in the final minute. Somehow, Weatherill and the Chiefs kept the puck out of the net, and Spokane secured a 6-0 mark vs. the East with a 4-2 win over Swift Current.
The Chiefs got great performances from Kral, Yamamoto and McIndoe as they took the top 3 stars on the night. The win pulled the Chiefs into a tie with Tri City for 4th in the division, and kept them 3 back of third place Seattle. Spokane also finished up their 5 game homestand by going 4-1 and winning three straight, matching their longest win streak of the season set in the first 3 games of the year. Now the Chiefs embarked on their longest road trip of the year, a 7 gamer that started the very next night in Vancouver against the Giants. The weather was brutal over Snoqualmie Pass, as heavy snows and awful roads led the team to arrive in Vancouver slightly before breakfast. Vancouver was a much improved team from their previous 5 years, as they were very much in the race for the top spot in the B.C. Division, sitting just 4 points out of first. Spokane had dominated the series the past 6 seasons though, winning 9 straight since losing in Vancouver September 30th of 2012.
It appeared the Chiefs were going to make it 10 in a row quickly, as Zach Fischer banked in a shot on a wrap around just 1:03 into the game to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. Dawson Weatherill turned back all 15 Vancouver shots in the first as the Chiefs penalty kill went a perfect 3-3 in the period as Spokane led it 1-0 after one. Kailer Yamamoto scored his 7th of the season just 59 seconds into the second on a great individual effort to put the Chiefs up 2-0. Yamamoto then scored his second of the night, and second short handed goal of the year at 3:10 to put Spokane ahead 3-0. Luke Toporowski would cap a three goal period with his 4th of the season midway through the frame to give the Chiefs a 4-0 lead after two. Hudson Elynuik would score early in the third to wrap up a 5-0 Spokane victory, as Weatherill secured his 2nd shut out of the season with a 31 save performance. The Chiefs penalty kill was excellent as the team turned away all 6 Vancouver power play chances. The win marked Spokane's season high 4th in a row, and was the 10th straight against the Giants. The Chiefs moved past Tri City into 4th place in the U.S. standings, just one point back of third place Seattle and 7 back of first place Everett. Ironically enough, the team would finish out the week facing the Americans and Silvertips in back to back games on Saturday and Sunday in Kennewick and Everett.
First up were the Americans, who had not played a game since losing to the Chiefs in overtime in Spokane the previous Saturday. Spokane was 1-1 at Tri, losing their last meeting on New Year's Eve after giving up a 3-1 lead in the second period in a 4-3 defeat. With a 4 game win streak heading into Saturday's tilt, the Chiefs carried that momentum into the first period as Jaret Anderson-Dolan's team leading 25th goal of the year just over 5.5 minutes into the game lifted the Chiefs to a 1-0 lead after one. Spokane would build the lead to 2-0 on an Ethan McIndoe goal 1:15 into the second period on a Kailer Yamamoto assist. The helper would extend Yamamoto's point scoring streak to 9 in a row. Tri City cut the margin to 2-1 on a power play goal just over a minute later, but Spokane answered right back on Ty Smith's 7th of the year at 3:46 to make it 3-1. Zach Fischer then scored his 22nd of the season less than a minute later, and the Chiefs seemingly had control of the game as they went up 4-1.
Tri City would change that though, as they scored two goals midway through the second to cut the Chiefs lead to 4-3 after two. The Americans seemingly tied the game just over 12 minutes into the third, but a video review showed the net was off its' posts when the Ams Jordan Topping scored from the right wing. It was a huugee break for Spokane and it looked like the Chiefs would escape with their 5th straight win as the Americans pulled their goalie in the final minute and a half. The Chiefs had a chance to easily clear the puck out of their zone, but a turnover at the blue line led Tri City to get the tying goal with a minute left on a Michael Rasmussen tip as the teams headed to overtime tied at 4. It was the 5th time in 7 meetings the Chiefs and Americans had gone to OT, with Spokane winning 3 straight in overtime and losing one in a shootout. Spokane had a chance to make it 4 straight in extra's when Zach Fischer went on a breakaway about a minute in, but Tri goalie Patrick Dea made the stop and the Americans would come the other way and score on a Dylan Coglan goal 1:14 into overtime to take the win 5-4.
It was a bitterrr defeat for the Chiefs, who had coughed up a 3 goal second period lead. Spokane had lost a 3 goal margin at home to Tri in the previous meeting in Spokane, so you think the Chiefs would have learned the lesson, but it was not to be. Spokane now trails the season series with Tri City 4-3, but do have a point lead in the standings. Spokane now closed out the week as they headed to Everett the following afternoon to take on the division leading Silvertips. Everett had their season high 8 game win streak snapped the night before in a shootout loss at Seattle, so it was going to be interesting to see who bounced back best from their previous night's defeat. Spokane had not fared well at Everett thus far this season, dropping both games by a combined 7-1 score. They would face the league's top goalie in Carter Hart for the 4th time, In the previous 3 meetings Spokane had managed just 1, 0, and 2 goals. Things would start well as Jake McGrew's power play goal midway through the first gave Spokane a 1-0 lead. Everett would tie the game just under 5 minutes later after a Chiefs turnover at their blue line, but Spokane came right back as Luke Toporowski scored his 3rd goal in 5 games at 17:22 to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead after one.
Everett would re-tie the game early in the second, but back would come the Chiefs as Kailer Yamamoto, who extended his points scoring streak to 10 straight, stripped the puck and fed Jaret Anderson-Dolan for his team high 26th of the year to make it 3-2 Spokane. The Silvertips then scored a power play goal midway through the period to even the game at three heading into the third period. Spokane got a power play goal from Yamamoto at 2:16 to go up 4-3, and then Yamamoto hit Anderson-Dolan for his second goal of the game 2:22 later to give the Chiefs a 5-3 lead. Getting 5 goals on Hart should have been moreee than enough for the Chiefs to win the game, but Everett's Wylie would score his second of the game just 30 seconds after Anderson-Dolan's goal to cut the lead to 5-4. Spokane would hold off the Silvertips until the final minute of the third, as Everett would pull Hart from goal in the final minute and a half. The Tips would pull even when Connor Dewar got open net front and scored with just 23.2 seconds left to tie the game at 5 and force overtime. It marked the second straight night the Chiefs failed to hold a lead in the final minute and it would become the second straight overtime loss when Dewar finished off a 2 on 1 rush 1:10 into OT to give Everett a 6-5 victory.
I guess if there's good news, it's the Chiefs have picked up points in the first three games of the road trip. The bad news is this team should be on a 6 game win streak with 3 straight wins on this road trip. The team is now tied for 4th in the division with Tri City and are sitting in the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With 4 more road games left on the road swing, things will not get any easier. Sunday's game in Everett marked the 50th of the season, leaving just 22 games left in the campaign. It's time for this club to start figuring out how to do the little things necessary to win games, and get rid of the mental mistakes that have plagued this team for the past couple of seasons. The Chiefs only have one game to worry about this week as they travel to Cranbrook, B.C. to take on the Kootenay Ice Friday night at 6 pm. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA starting with the pre-game show at 5:30 pm. Let's hope the Chiefs bounce back with a road win and we hope to see you on the radio!