With just 10 games remaining in the first half of the season, the Chiefs were starting to show signs of playing their best hockey of the year. After scoring a huge win in Everett over the first place Silvertips, the club had shut down the Kamloops Blazers in an impressive 3-1 win at home the next Saturday. The beginning of a new week saw the Chiefs make a move off the ice, as the team dealt 20 year old forward Jeff Faith and a pair of draft picks to the Blazers for 20 year old forward Luc Smith. The move signaled the team was looking to play for a title this season, as Smith will add some great depth up the middle and some added scoring punch for a lineup that will be without their leading scorer from last season in Jaret Anderson-Dolan until the New Year.
Spokane suited up Smith for the first time as he debuted against a familiar foe from his B.C. Division days in the Prince George Cougars. The Cougars were coming off a 5-2 loss the night before in Tri Cities, where they had out chanced the Americans by a 2 to 1 margin and had led the game 2-1 early in the second period, only to give up 4 unanswered goals to lose their second straight game. Prince George came out strong against the Chiefs Wednesday as they put 5 of the first 6 shots of the game. Spokane would strike first though, as Riley Woods sniped home his team leading 19th of the season on the Chiefs second shot of the game at 4:23 of the first. Spokane had chances to build the lead but went 0 for 4 on the power play in the first as they held their 1-0 advantage after one.
In the second, rookie Adam Beckman banked a shot off a PG defender in front of the goal and in the net for this third goal in the last two games to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead after two. Spokane missed out on three more power play chances in the second as the Cougars penalty kill kept things close. Woods would give the Chiefs some cushion midway through the third as he scored on a rebound after Spokane had hit the goal post on back to back shots to make it 3-0. Goalie Bailey Brkin was a wall in front of the net, turning aside all 27 Cougar shots on the night and Cordell Larson sealed a 4-0 victory with an empty net goal with over 2 minutes left. For Brkin, it was his second shutout of the season and his second straight strong performance in goal, as the Chiefs won their third straight, matching their longest win streak of the year.
Spokane has now won 6 of their last 7 as they moved past Portland by a point for second place in the U.S. Division behind Everett. The Silvertips have opened up a 10 point lead over the Chiefs as they've ripped off 8 wins in their last 10. The Chiefs were hoping to make up some ground on the Tips as Spokane headed to Everett on Friday for the first of 3 games in 10 days in Everett. It marked the beginning of a huge stretch for the Chiefs, as the next 3 weeks will determine if Spokane is going to challenge Everett for the top of the division, or if the Chiefs will be fighting for 2nd, 3rd or 4th in the U.S. The last time the two clubs met in Everett, it was 12 days previous as Riley Woods game winner in overtime gave the Chiefs a 3-2 victory. Spokane had taken a 2 goal lead on two power play goals in that contest, and they would repeat that feat in Friday's match up.
Eli Zummack scored just 2:41 in to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Luc Smith scored his first goal as a Chief with the team's second power play tally midway through the first to give Spokane a 2-0 lead after one. Everett cut the lead in half at 2-1 on a power play goal early in the second, but the Chiefs held the one goal lead heading into the third. Filip Kral scored Spokane's third power play goal of the evening early in the third to put the Chiefs back up 2 at 3-1. Everett then ripped off 3 goals in a 7:10 stretch to take the lead at 4-3 with just under 2.5 minutes left in the game. Just when all looked lost, the Chiefs got the extra skater on in the final minute. Ethan McIndoe tipped Ty Smith's shot in with only 15 seconds left in the game to knot the contest at 4-4 and send the two teams to overtime for the second straight meeting.
In the OT, an errant pass out of the Everett defensive zone led to a breakaway by Everett's Connor Dewar, who scored just 53 seconds into the overtime to give the Silvertips a 5-4 win. The loss snapped the Chiefs season high 3 game win streak, and put Spokane 11 points back of Everett for first in the division. The good news, if there was any, was the Chiefs gained a point on third place Portland to go 2 ahead of the Winterhawks heading into the two clubs meeting on Saturday in the Rose City. Portland was off on Friday, so they were raring to go on their teddy bear toss night. The Winterhawks scored just 2:10 into the game to take a 1-0 lead. Two more goals in the next 6:27 gave the Hawks a 3-0 lead after one and put Spokane in a major hole.
Portland added to lead as Bailey Brkin relieved Dawson Weatherill in the second as the Hawks scored 3:59 in to make it 4-0. The Chiefs fought back as Filip Kral's power play goal midway through the period cut the lead to 4-1. Jake McGrew's 7th of the season at 16:11 brought Spokane within 4-2 and it looked like the Chiefs were going to make it a game in the third. Unfortunately, back to back turnovers led to 2 Portland goals a minute apart late in the second and the wind went out of the Chiefs comeback as they fell behind 6-2 after two. Needless to say, the third period was fruitless exercise as Portland rang up 2 more goals to hand the Chiefs an 8-2 defeat, matching their worst of the season. Spokane put up a season low 20 shots on net as the Winterhawks pulled into a tie with the Chiefs for second in the division. Now the big question is, how will this team respond in their next outing when they head to Everett Wednesday to finish their 3 game road trip?
The Silvertips could be up 15 points on Spokane by the time the Chiefs go to Everett, as the Tips are in Portland Sunday. With just 2 weeks left in the first half of the season, Spokane has to finish with a flurry, or their hopes for a division title will be done by the Christmas break. The Chiefs head into this week with 4 games in 5 nights beginning with the game in Everett Wednesday. Spokane returns home to host Lethbridge and Kootenay from the Central Division Friday and Saturday, and then head back over to Everett on Sunday. For me, it's a make or break week. If the team fails to make any kind of dent in Everett's lead...or falls further behind...the club will be playing for second place in the division. We shall see how things play out. I'll have the call on 94.1 FM the Bear on Wednesday from Everett due to Gonzaga basketball. Friday and Saturday's games at the Spokane Arena will be on 1510 KGA. All 3 games will have the pre-game at 6:30 pm and the puck drops at 7:05 pm. Sunday's game from Everett will be back on 94.1 FM due to the Zags. Pre-game is at 3:30 pm and the puck drop at 4:05 pm. It's a huge week for the Chiefs and we hope to see you at the rink!