SPOKANE, Wash. — After finishing off the previous week with a home and home sweep over Kelowna, the Chiefs headed back into the U.S. Division looking to make up some ground on the two teams ahead of them in Portland and Everett. While the Chiefs were a distant 17 points back of the division leading Winterhawks, Everett was 9 points up on the Chiefs and still within reach if Spokane could rip off some wins within the division. Spokane would start the week in Portland against a Hawks team that had won 4 of 5 from the Chiefs this season. Spokane's only win had come in mid November in Portland in overtime, one of only two losses the Winterhawks had from early November until losing two straight over the weekend to Everett and Seattle. The Chiefs were hoping to make it three straight for the division leaders as the teams met for the first time at the old Memorial Coliseum after playing the previous two contests at the Moda Center.
The last time the Chiefs were in the old Coliseum, Spokane had taken back to back overtime wins on their way to a 5 game series win. Tuesday's game would bring back memories of those contests. Unlike the previous couple of games against the Winterhawks, it was Spokane that got out to quick start. Adam Beckman would score his league leading 37th and 38th goals in the first 9:25 of the game to put the Chiefs up 2-0 after one. Spokane would expand the lead on Ty Smith's 9th goal of the season 3:25 into the second period to go ahead 3-0. Portland would get on the board just under 4 minutes later to make it 3-1, but the Chiefs Eli Zummack would stretch his points scoring streak to 9 straight with his 19th goal of the year 51 seconds later to put Spokane up 4-1. Leif Mattson then scored his 3rd goal in the last 2 games at 11:22 and suddenly the Chiefs had a commanding 5-1 lead. Luke Toporowski picked up an assist as his points scoring streak went to 8 straight. Just as it looked like the Chiefs were in charge though, Portland scored two goals in the final 7:04 of the second to cut the lead to 5-3 after two.
Spokane needed a quick start to the third and they got it as Cordel Larson scored 1:05 into the period to put the Chiefs up 6-3. Portland then got a goal just over 4 minutes later to get within 6-4. Spokane seemed to weather the storm until taking the only penalty of the period just over 12 minutes in. The Hawks would make it 2 for 2 on the power play as they made it 6-5 with just under 6 minutes left. Portland would pull their goalie in the final minute and a half, and the move worked as the Winterhawks scored their third straight goal with just 42 seconds left to cap the comeback and force overtime at 6-6. In the OT, Spokane got back on their game as they put up 4 of the 6 shots. The Chiefs then salvaged the 2 points as Jack Finley scored his second game winner vs. the Winterhawks this season as he scored 4:04 into the overtime to give Spokane a 7-6 victory.
It was a huge win for the club to start the week, as they moved within 7 points of Everett for second in the U.S. Division. Next up would be the rival Tri City Americans as they came to the Spokane Arena on Saturday. The Ams have had a forgettable second half of the season, having won just 3 games since the Christmas break and just one since January 11th, to fall into last place in the division and conference. Everett blanked Tri City 5-0 on Friday in Kennewick, so the Americans were anxious to change that on Saturday in Spokane. The Chiefs went with back up goalie James Porter in net in his first game since shutting out Kelowna a week earlier at the Arena. The Americans jumped on Spokane early as they out shot the Chiefs 13-6 through the first 3/4 of the first period. Porter kept Spokane in the game as he made 3 big saves to keep the Ams off the scoreboard. Spokane ripped off the final 9 shots of the period over the final minutes of the first as the two teams ended the opening 20 minutes scoreless.
Spokane took that momentum into the second as Jack Finley fired home his 14th of the year just 53 seconds into the period to put the Chiefs up 1-0. Spokane then scored on their first power play of the night less than 2 minutes later as Finley tipped in a Cordel Larson shot to make it 2-0. Bear Hughes then fed Brandon Reller on a great goal net front midway through the frame to put the Chiefs up 3-0. Luke Toporowski would cap a four goal period with his 18th of the year from Eli Zummack to give Spokane a 4-0 lead after two. Toporowski and Zummack would extend their points scoring streaks to 9 and 10 games respectively with that tally.
In the third, Adam Beckman would notch his league leading 39th goal of the year and a goal in his 4th straight contest just over 7.5 minutes into the third to put the game away at 5-0. Ty Smith capped the scoring with a goal in his 3rd straight game midway through to put the finishing touches on a 6-0 shutout win. Porter pitched his second straight perfect performance in goal as he has been unscored upon since January 25th. The Chiefs went 2 for 3 on the power play and a perfect 2 for 2 on the penalty kill as they out shot Tri City 44-25. Spokane had now won 4 in a row, but still remained 9 points back of Everett for second in the division. The Chiefs looked to finish the week unbeaten as they hosted the Silvertips Sunday at the Spokane Arena in the final regular season meeting between the two clubs.
The Silvertips had won 7 of 8 from Spokane during the season, although the Chiefs won the last meeting in Spokane on an Eli Zummack overtime goal in late January. Everett had won 2 straight over the weekend, winning at Tri City Friday and Seattle Saturday to keep themselves 9 points ahead of the Chiefs in the division. The Silvertips were far from full strength though as they dressed just 9 forwards due to suspension and injuries. Spokane went back to Lukas Parik in net as he sought his second win against the Tips this year. The Chiefs didn't do themselves any favors in the first, as a turnover in their own zone and a power play chance for Everett led to two goals for the Silvertips in the final minutes of the first as Spokane fell behind 2-0 after one.
The second period would be the game changer for the Chiefs however, as Leif Mattson led the charge. The 20 year old forward tipped in a Filip Kral shot on the power play 2:44 into the period to get Spokane within 2-1. Mattson then scored on a breakaway while the two teams were on a 4 on 4 just over 8 minutes in to bring the Chiefs even at 2-2. Luke Toporowski then scored Spokane's second power play goal of the period just 49 seconds after Mattson's goal to give Spokane the lead for good at 3-2. Toporowski's point scoring streak went to 10 in a row, while Eli Zummack made it 11 straight games with the primary assist. Adam Beckman then scored his league leading 40th of the season at 15:38 to put Spokane ahead 4-2. Beckman has now scored goals in 5 straight and has an assist in 6 consecutive contests. Everett would cut the lead back to one late in the second on Jake Christiansen's second goal of the night in the final 3 minutes to make it a 4-3 game heading into the third.
Unlike Tuesday's game in Portland, Spokane didn't let off the gas defensively or in net. Parik turned aside all 8 shots he saw in the final 20 minutes, and the Chiefs would put the game away when Cordel Larson scored an empty netter in the final 8 seconds to secure Spokane's first win in regulation over Everett this season, 5-3. Everett won 7 of the 9 from Spokane this year, but the Chiefs won 2 of the last 3, including 2 in a row at home at the Spokane Arena. The Chiefs now have something positive to lean on as they appear to be headed to a first round playoff series against the Silvertips next month. Spokane's power play continues to roll, going 2 for 4 on the night, and have gone a blistering 13 for 24 in their last 5 games. The win Sunday was also Spokane's 5th in a row, their second longest win streak of the season, one back of the 6 straight from November 30-December 14.
The Chiefs now have a chance to match that streak as they finish off their 3 game home stand by hosting the Moose Jaw Warriors at the Arena Wednesday night at 7:05 pm. Spokane will then conclude the week by starting a 5 game road trip at division leading Portland on Friday and then head to Tri City on Saturday. The weekend's tilts will also be at 7:05 pm as I'll have the call for Wednesday and Friday's games on 103.5 FM the Game and 1510 AM KGA beginning with the pre-game shows at 6:30 pm. Saturday's game from Tri Cities will be on 94.1 FM the Bear and 790 AM KJRB at the same times due to Gonzaga basketball. Let's see if the Chiefs can keep it rolling as the club heads into its' final 6 weeks of the regular season and we hope to see you at the rink!