SPOKANE, Wash. — What is it they say about March? It roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb? The Chiefs have certainly come into March roaring, having won a season high 6 straight and 12 of their last 13 since January 31st to solidify their third place standing in the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League. While the Chiefs have been unable to gain any ground on the two teams in front of them in Everett and Portland, Spokane has been able to pass Kamloops for 3rd place in the Western Conference overall standings with their performance over the last month plus. The club was coming off back to back home wins over Seattle and Tri City this last weekend and was hoping to keep the momentum going with their second three game road trip through the Central Division in the last three weeks beginning in Edmonton on Wednesday.
The Oil Kings are the top team in the East, and were tied with Everett with the top record in the WHL coming into the only meeting between Spokane and Edmonton this season. It was also the first time the Chiefs faced former teammate Ethan McIndoe after he was traded in early October to get down to the minimum three 20 year old limit. Spokane welcomed back defenseman Filip Kral to the lineup Wednesday after he had missed the previous two weeks due to injury. The Chiefs would out shoot the Oil Kings 14-9 in the first, but trailed 1-0 after the first period. In the second, Spokane would take over the game. Luke Toporowski scored his 8th goal in his last 7 games 4:03 into the second period to tie the game at one. Owen McNeil scored his second goal in his last 3 games 1:07 later to put the Chiefs up 2-1. Leif Mattson then fired in his 20th of the year at 7:09 to make it 3-1 Spokane and then Jack Finley scored 2:25 later to cap a 4 goal period to give the Chiefs a 4-1 lead after two. Adam Beckman picked up his 100th point of the season with an assist on Finley's goal as Spokane out shot Edmonton 15-6 in the frame.
Edmonton would cut the lead to 4-2 on a goal 8:21 into the third, but Spokane denied an Oil King power play right after that goal to keep it a two goal affair. Finley then scored his second of the night on a Mattson pass at 13:41 to put the Chiefs in control at 5-2. Noah King then capped a 6-2 victory with a power play tally in the final 30 seconds as the Chiefs picked up their season high 7th straight win. Spokane was now a perfect 4-0 through the Central and had won 13 of 14 as they headed down the road to Red Deer to play the Rebels on Friday. The Chiefs have had battles with Red Deer the last 3 seasons, having seen all three games go to 4-3 finals in overtime. Red Deer had won the first two while Spokane broke through with a win at home last season. Now the Chiefs would try to keep the momentum going against a Rebels squad that had been shutout their last game against Edmonton, and would be chomping at the bit to change their fortunes.
The Chiefs went with back up goalie James Porter, Jr. against the Rebels on Friday as Porter and the club went for their 8th straight wins respectively, Spokane got out shot 12-10 in the first at Red Deer, but took a 1-0 lead when Michael King scored from the right blue line at 7:07 of the period. The WHL's leading scorer Adam Beckman then made it 2-0 13:49 into the second with his league leading 45th of the season as Porter and Eli Zummack picked up the assists. Zummack's assist extended his assist scoring streak to 8 straight games. Beckman then found Ty Smith for his 18th of the year at 16:37 to stake Spokane to a 3-0 lead. Red Deer cut the deficit to 3-1 with a power play goal in the final two minutes of the period as the Chiefs took a 2 goal lead to the third.
Spokane would make a 3 goal lead just 53 seconds into the third when Beckman scored his second of the night to make it 4-1. The Chiefs controlled the third, out shooting Red Deer 17-9 and would put the game away when Beckman notched his third hat trick of the season with a power play tally at 18:18 to cap off a 4 point night in a 5-1 Spokane victory. Ty Smith put up 4 points in the contest as well with a goal and 3 assists, while Porter turned aside 32 shots to improve to 8-2 this season. The Chiefs had now won 8 in a row for the first time since 2011 and were hoping to make it 9 straight, and a perfect 6-0 through the Central Division this year as they traveled to Calgary to finish off the three game road trip on Saturday.
The Hitmen drilled the Chiefs in Spokane last season 5-1, so there's no doubt the club remembered that result going into the Saddledome. Calgary was playing their 4th game in 5 nights and had lost the previous night in Medicine Hat. Lukas Parik was back in net for Spokane as the Chiefs hoped to finish the Central Division swing on a high note. The club got off to a bit of a slow start in the first, giving up 5 of the first 6 shots. Spokane found their game midway through the period though as Leif Mattson and linemate Luke Toporowski scored 22 seconds apart to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead after one. Calgary came right back and put up 3 goals in the first 8:08 of the second to take a 3-2 lead. Spokane would answer themselves as Adam Beckman scored his league leading 48th of the year at 15:22 to tie the game at three. Toporowski then scored his second of the night just 30 seconds later as the Chiefs took a 4-3 advantage to the third.
Spokane's Ty Smith would add to the lead with his 19th of the season off a delayed penalty call 5:52 into the third as Smith scored with the extra attacker on for the Chiefs as his goal made it 5-3. Mattson would add his second of the game on a power play just 57 seconds later, as Spokane would make it 9 in a row with a 6-3 victory in Calgary. Eli Zummack would put up a career high 5 assists in the win, extending his assists scoring streak to 9 straight games, and taking over the league assists lead in the process with 63 on the year. Mattson put up a career high 4 points with 2 goals and 2 assists, as Toporowski's 2 goals gave that line a massive 11 points on the evening. Ty Smith put up a goal and an assist as well, as the Chiefs capped off a perfect 6-0 mark against the Central Division this season on the road, the first time the club has ever done that. Perhaps more impressive, Spokane was 11-1 against the Eastern Conference, the best record they've ever done in a season.
The nine game win streak is the longest in 9 years for Spokane, and the club is picking the best time to play their best hockey of the season. The Chiefs will now return home for their final home stand of the regular campaign, as they host Kamloops Tuesday, Portland Friday and Tri City Saturday at the Spokane Arena. It will the final games at home until games 3 and 4 of the playoffs, so it's a great opportunity for you the fans to show your appreciation for this team that is putting together something special this year. Game times this week will be 7:05 pm, with the pre-game shows at 6:30 pm. I'll have the call on 94.1 FM the Bear and 790 KJRB for Tuesday's game with Kamloops due to Gonzaga basketball, but Friday and Saturday's games with Portland and Tri City will be on 103.5 FM the Game and 1510 AM KGA. Let's hope the boys keep it rolling this week at home in front of some raucous fans and we hope to see you at the rink!