SPOKANE, Wash. — After sweeping a pair of weekend games against Kamloops and Kootenay, the Chiefs returned home to the Spokane Arena to open a 4 game home stand with a pair of contests this week. Spokane was sitting in third in the U.S. Division, three points back of second place Portland, as the Chiefs hosted Prince George on Wednesday. The league's trade deadline was on this day, but Spokane pretty much had its roster in place after making deals for goalie Reece Klassen, forward Luc Smith and defenseman Noah King. The team did tweak the roster a bit as they re-assigned defenseman Luke Gallagher and Mike Ladyman to teams in Canada, while welcoming back defenseman Matt Leduc from injury. Spokane was still without forward Riley Woods, who was recovering from the hit he took against Kamloops the weekend before.
The Chiefs would start their week by welcoming a Prince George club who had shut out Tri City the night before in Kennewick. The Cougars had won two in a row and were finishing off an 11 game road trip when they faced a Chiefs team that had also won two straight. Wednesday's game marked the debut for Klassen in net after his trade from Lethbridge, where he won 11 games. Spokane was hoping to get a PG team feeling the effects of an 11 game road swing, and jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Nolan Reid power play goal 4:23 into the game off a great set up from fellow defenseman Filip Kral. The Chiefs then converted their next power play chance on a Ty Smith's shot from the point midway through to take a 2-0 lead after one. Spokane out shot the Cougars 12-4 in the stanza as the special teams were perfect in the first. Prince George came out and scored 31 seconds into the second period to cut the margin to 2-1 after two. Klassen kept it a one goal lead with a great save on a breakaway midway through the period and it turned out to be a game saver.
Luc Smith scored on a rebound midway through the third period to put Spokane up 3-1. The Cougars would pull their goalie in the final two minutes and get a goal off a rebound with 1:10 left to get within 3-2. The Chiefs would cap off a 4-2 win though, as Jake McGrew scored in his fifth straight game on an empty netter with 12 seconds remaining. Spokane out shot Prince George 27-17 in the game, while going perfect on special teams with a 2-2 performance on the power play as well as the penalty kill. The team swept the two game home series with the Cougars this season, and turned their attention to their chief rival in the U.S. Division, Tri City. Spokane has struggled against two clubs this season; Everett, whom they've lost 5 of 7, and Tri City, who has beaten the Chiefs 3 of 4 entering Saturday's match up at the Arena. The Americans were feeling good, having rallied with 2 goals in the third to win at Everett the previous night 4-3. Tri had beaten the Silvertips twice this past week and were 6 points back of the Chiefs for third in the U.S. With Portland winning 4 of 5 on their East Division trip, Spokane was now 5 points back of the Winterhawks for second in the division.
The Chiefs got good news on Saturday as leading goal scorer Riley Woods returned to the lineup. It marked the first time this season that Spokane had a full lineup from what they expected in September. That turned out to be good news for the Chiefs and not so good for Tri City. The Americans had crushed Spokane 6-1 in the two teams last meeting on New Year's Eve, but the Chiefs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first on Eli Zummack's 12th of the season midway through the period. The Ams would tie just 31 seconds later, but the Chiefs would convert the only power play chance of the first when Luc Smith finished off a Zummack feed at 12:55 to make it 2-1. Spokane then capped a 3 goal period when Cordell Larson deflected a Ty Smith shot in just 20 seconds later to give the Chiefs a 3-1 edge after one.
The second period went even better for Spokane as Michael King scored his first of the year on a breakaway early in the stanza to expand the lead to 4-1. Tri City would get a goal midway through the period to cut the margin to 4-2, but the Chiefs answered again just 32 seconds after the Ams goal as Adam Beckman notched his rookie league leading 18th of the year to put Spokane back up 5-2. The Chiefs got their second power play goal of the night in 3 attempts as Nolan Reid scored his 7th of the season to give Spokane a 6-2 edge. Jake McGrew would then end the competitive phase of the contest with a breakaway with 25 seconds left in the period as he scored a goal in his 6th straight game to put the Chiefs up 7-2 heading into the third. Woods would score his team leading 24th of the year late in the third to make it 8-2 Spokane. Tri City would score a goal with just under a minute and a half left to cap the scoring as the Chiefs matched a game high 8 goals this season with the 8-3 victory. Spokane dominated offensively, out shooting Tri City 48-26, while going 2-3 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.
The wins enabled Spokane to keep pace with Portland in the division, as the Winterhawks went 5-1 on their East Division trip. The Chiefs will enter the week 5 points back of the Hawks for second, but have expanded their lead to 8 over Tri City for third in the U.S. The team also knows what they are capable of with a full lineup as they soundly beat a team that had owned the season series up until Saturday. Spokane will now finish off the home stand this weekend as they host the B.C. Division leading Vancouver Giants on Friday before Tri City comes back to the Arena for a re-match on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs can establish a consistency with their game against two of the top teams in the West. I'll have the call for Friday's game on 1510 KGA with the pre-game at 6:30 pm and the puck drop at 7:05 pm. Saturday's game with Tri will be on 94.1 FM the Bear with the same times for pre-game and start. Let's see if the Chiefs can build on their season high 4 game winning streak and we hope to see you at the rink!