SPOKANE, Wash. — The Chiefs have shown their slow start to this season may be fading away, as the club has shown signs of turning things around in the win-loss column over the past 2 weeks.
Spokane rang up points in 4 straight games, including back to back wins at home last week against Tri City and Portland. The club saw their 2 game win streak come to end with a 7-6 loss at home to Portland, but Spokane showed some fight with a 5 goal third that helped them overcome a 3 goal deficit early in the period.
Despite the loss to the Winterhawks, the club came out with some positive moments out of the game that hopefully would carry over with the club as they set out on a 3 game road trip beginning Tuesday at Everett. The Silvertips had 9 of their first 11 on the season, including a perfect 6-0 on their home ice. Spokane was winless on the road, going 0-3-1-1 on enemy ice to start the season. One of those losses was a 2-0 shutout defeat in Everett in the season's second game.
Spokane was without defenseman Graham Sward, and forwards Ben Thornton and Cordel Larson, who were on the injured list. The Chiefs were facing an Everett team that had given up just 19 goals in 11 games. Tuesday's game looked like another Everett victory on their home ice was imminent as the Silvertips scored two goals in a little over a minute in a half midway through the period to take a 2-0 lead after one. Spokane had not won in Everett since April of 2019 during the playoffs, and had dropped 5 straight, including 3 by shutout. Maybe the Silvertips sensed it too heading into the second period.
Spokane didn't lay down though as leading goal scorer Adam Beckman scored just 31 seconds into the second to cut the Everett lead to 2-1. The Tips came right back though and scored 34 seconds later to go back up by 2 at 3-1. Spokane got one power play chance in the second and third periods, and they took advantage on that opportunity early in the second. Rookie Copeland Fricker scored his first career WHL goal at 4:41 of the period to get the Chiefs back within one at 3-2. Spokane would kill off two Everett power plays in the second period, the second one extending 1:50 into the third.
The Chiefs used the momentum of that kill into the third, as Beckman scored his second of the time 2:51 into the period to tie the game at three. Everett got another power play about 4 minutes later, but it would be the Chiefs that would capitalize on the Tips man advantage. Matt Leduc lifted the puck out of the Chiefs zone and down towards the Everett goal. Eli Zummack would take the puck away from an Everett defender and score his second shorthanded goal in the week at 7:31 to give Spokane their first lead at 4-3.
Goaltender Mason Beaupit would take the game from there as he turned aside 18 Everett shots in the third. Spokane would kill off 4 straight Everett power plays over the final two periods and score 3 unanswered goals to complete an improbable 4-3 come from behind victory. It was Spokane's first third period comeback, after going 0-6 when trailing after two periods.
Adam Beckman and Eli Zummack each finished with 4 point nights as Beckman went for 2 goals and 2 assists, while Zummack had the game winning goal and 3 assists. The Chiefs had now won 3 of their last 4 as they hoped to make it back to back road wins as they headed to Portland the next night to face the Winterhawks for the 3rd time in the last 6 days. Spokane went back with Mason Beaupit in net as he had defeated Portland 3-1 the last time he faced them the previous Friday.
This game didn't start the way Beaupit or the Chiefs wanted it to, as Simon Knak's goal just 51 seconds into the contest gave Portland a 1-0 lead. The Winterhawks would score again at 15:01 as they would out shoot Spokane 17-5 in the first to take a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. The Chiefs got back in the game as Blake Swetlikoff scored his 3rd of the season on a perfect pass from Erik Atchison at 6:17 to cut the deficit to 2-1. Portland kept the pressure up on Spokane in the period, but Beaupit turned away all 19 Winterhawks shots to keep the Chiefs within one heading into the third.
The two clubs had staggered minor penalties early in the third, leading to a 4 on 4 situation on the ice. Spokane would capitalize on the moment as Adam Beckman scored a goal in his 6th straight game 5:35 into the third to tie the contest at 2-2. Portland answered right back though as Tyson Kozak scored off the rush at 9:10 of the period to regain the lead for the Hawks at 3-2. The lead would hold until Portland took a hooking penalty with 1:05 remaining to put Spokane on the power play for the third time in the game.
The Chiefs also pulled goalie Mason Beaupit to set themselves up on a 6 on 4 advantage. Eli Zummack got the puck in the right circle and snapped one into the top left corner with just 31 seconds left in the game to tie the game at three and send it to overtime. In the OT, Zummack would strike again as he carried the puck into the attack zone, got between the circles and shot the puck under the pads of Portland goalie Dante Giannuzzi 3:27 into overtime to give the Chiefs their second straight road win with a 4-3 overtime victory.
It was Zummack's second straight night with a game winner as he has notched goals in 3 of the last 5 games. Beckman has scored a goal in 6 straight, while Bobby Russell's two assists gave him 6 points in his last 6 games. The win wasn't possible without Mason Beaupit's performance in goal. Beaupit stopped 48 of 51 Portland shots as he picked up his 2nd straight win over the Winterhawks. No question the Chiefs don't have a chance of staying in the game, let alone winning it if Beaupit doesn't have the type of performance he did on Wednesday night.
With the win, Spokane moved past Tri City into 4th place in the U.S. Division and were only 2 points back of third place Portland. Now the Chiefs had a chance to gain even more ground in the division and finish off a perfect 3-0 road trip as they were slated for a home and home series with the Americans over the weekend. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Covid-19 continued to rear its' ugly head, as the club found out Tri City had a positive COVID test and had all team activities shut down the afternoon of the game on Saturday.
Spokane saw both of their games with the Americans cancelled and are now in a holding pattern as far as two games that are upcoming with Tri City next week. With just 3 weeks left in the regular season and if Tri City is shut down for 14 days, like Kelowna and Calgary were with positive tests, it will be near impossible to make the games up against the Americans. There's the possibility of scheduling extra games with other division opponents, but much will depend on the availability of Portland, Everett and Seattle to play the Chiefs on short notice. Travel will be an issue as well, as Spokane would more than likely have to travel to make up the games; so the availability of arenas will come into play as well.
While the Chiefs will have to ponder if and how they can make up the lost games, Spokane will prepare for the two games on the schedule this week as they host division leading Everett at the Spokane Arena Thursday and Friday. It's the one trip set with the Silvertips over to Spokane in this shortened season and the back to back games will be the lone chances for the Chiefs to work on their development.
Spokane is set to travel to Tri City on Sunday the 25th, but that game is very much up in the air as to whether it will be played. In the meantime, I'll have the call on Thursday and Friday's games on 103.5 FM the Game and 1510 AM KGA beginning with the pre-game shows at 5:30 pm, and the puck drops at 6:10 pm. Let's hope the Chiefs are able to get some games in and when they do, keep up the momentum they built on their last road trip. We hope to see you on the radio!