The Chiefs entered the final two weeks of the first half of the season with just 6 games remaining to position themselves solidly in the league's U.S. Division. Spokane had fallen to third place, a point back of red hot Everett, who had won 6 straight to go ahead of the Chiefs by one point. Tri City was right behind, just 2 off the pace, while last place Seattle was within reach, only 4 back of Spokane. The Chiefs were coming off a nice come from behind win over Tri City last Saturday as Spokane started up 13 straight in the division that would carry into the New Year. The team had a brief two game weekend against division rivals Everett and Seattle over the weekend before heading into a 4 game week to wrap up the first half. First up was the team that had just passed Spokane in the standings, the Everett Silvertips. Everett had ridden their goalie Carter Hart to 6 straight wins to take a 1 point lead over Spokane going into Friday's game in Everett.
Spokane had dropped a 4-1 decision in their last visit in the Tips barn back on November 24th as a slow start doomed the Chiefs in that contest. Spokane seemed determined to avoid that this time around, as the Chiefs came out and dominated the first period offensively. The Chiefs out shot Everett 13-5 in the first, but Hart showed why he had a goals against of just 1.43 as he turned aside every shot. Spokane headed to the second in a 0-0 game and Everett had to feel great being in that position. The second period would be much like the first, as the Chiefs out chanced the Tips 13-6 in the second, but not only would Spokane fail to score, but Everett would take the lead with a goal in the final minute of the period to go up 1-0 after 40 minutes. It had to be demoralizing to control the game for 40 minutes and find yourself trailing. The third didn't start any better for the Chiefs as a shot from the right goal line trickled past starting goalie Declan Hobbs inside the post just a minute into the third to give the Silvertips a 2-0 lead.
It was a huge goal mentally, as the Chiefs had to feel like they were down 4-0 with Hart's play in net. Spokane would get three straight power play chances in the third, but would fail to capitalize on any of them, as the Chiefs went 0-6 with the man advantage on the night. The Chiefs would pull Hobbs from net in the final 3 minutes, but Everett would score on an empty net tally to seal a 3-0 win. Spokane out shot Everett 39-20 in the game, generated twice the power play chances, and yet ended up being shut out for just the third time this season. An 0-6 power play didn't help, as the Chiefs are now 0-12 in three games against the Tips top rated penalty kill. Now Spokane is three points back of Everett for second in the standings, and it didn't help Tri City picked a win in Seattle to pull even with the Chiefs for third in the U.S.
Now the Chiefs headed home to hopefully find the net in the team's annual Teddy Bear Toss night as they faced off with Seattle for the first time this season. The Chiefs and Thunderbirds will see a lot of each other over the next 3 weeks, playing 4 times in the Chiefs next 7 games. Last year, Spokane won 3 of the first 5 in the season series before dropping 5 in a row to the eventual league champions. The biggest thing for Spokane on this night was just finding the net so the fans could let their teddy bears fly. Donovan Buskey got the start in net and the Thunderbirds jumped out to the early lead as a power play goal gave Seattle a 1-0 lead. Jaret Anderson-Dolan would give the fans the chance to throw the bears as he scored on his own rebound less than a minute later to even the game at one after the first period. The Chiefs continued their good work offensively from the night before as they out shot Seattle 13-6 in the period.
Spokane would continue the offensive prowess in the second as they would take control of the game. The Chiefs took the lead for good when Jake McGrew finished off a Filip Kral pass 4:25 in to take a 2-1 lead. Just 20 seconds later, Tyson Helgesen finished up a rush with his 4th goal of the year to put Spokane up 3-1. Zach Fischer would score a highlight reel goal 14:01 into the period to extend the margin to 4-1.That goal would spell the end of the night for Seattle goalie Dorin Luding and former Chief netminder Matt Berlin would take over. Things didn't go any better for the ex-Chief as Milos Fafrak scored on Spokane's first shot on Berlin two minutes later to put the Chiefs up 5-1 after two periods. Seattle had rallied from 3 goals down against Tri City to force overtime the night before and would get a power play early in the third to try to cut into Spokane's lead. The T-Birds hope for a comeback would come to an end when Anderson-Dolan would score his second of the night with a short handed tally just over 5 minutes into the third to give the Chiefs a commanding 6-1 advantage. Fischer then put up his second of the game to make it 7-1. Fafrak then scored back to back goals in just 14 seconds to set a new franchise record for quickest consecutive goals as he scored his first career hat trick to cap the scoring for Spokane at 9-1. A Seattle power play goal late in the game didn't spoil a decisive 9-2 Chiefs win as Spokane moved past Tri City for 3rd place in the U.S. Division.
The Chiefs go into the final week of the first half of the season trailing first place Portland by 6 points and are 3 back of second place Everett. Spokane will have a great chance to make up ground on both as they play Portland and Everett in 3 of the 4 games this week. The Chiefs will host Portland Tuesday at the Spokane Arena at 7:05pm. Everett then comes to town on Friday at 7:05pm and then the Chiefs head to Portland to take on the Winterhawks Saturday at 6pm.
Spokane caps the three games in three nights weekend on Sunday when they host Seattle at 5pm at the Arena. The Chiefs will lose forward Kailer Yamamoto and defenseman Filip Kral to the World Juniors after the Portland game Tuesday, so the team is hoping to overcome the loss of two of their top players before heading into the Christmas break. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday with the pre-game shows at 6:30pm on Tuesday and Friday, and at 4:30pm on Sunday. Saturday's game from Portland will be on 94.1 FM the Bear starting with the pre-game at 5:30pm. It's a big week for the Chiefs to make a move up the division standings and we hope to see you at the rink!