Entering the final two weeks of the regular season, the Chiefs were perhaps playing their best hockey of the season. The team was on a season high 5 game win streak and had moved 7 points ahead of Tri City for third in the U.S. Division. Spokane was also within 5 points of second place Portland with 7 games remaining and had visions of making a run to get the home ice spot for the first round of the playoffs. Getting to that point though was going to be challenge though, as the Chiefs returned home for a three game home stand. Spokane would face the top two teams in the West in Everett and Vancouver, two clubs ranked 7th and 9th in the latest CHL poll. The Chiefs had fared poorly against both teams this season as well, losing 5 of 7 to Everett and all 3 meetings to Vancouver.
Spokane had not faced Everett since the second game of the second half of the season back on December 28th. The Chiefs put up a season low 15 shots in a 3-1 loss, but were now facing the Silvertips for the first time in their 8 meetings with their full lineup. Everett had wrapped up the U.S. Division title, but were in a tight race with Vancouver for the top spot in the Western Conference. It's safe to say, the Chiefs were going to get a great barometer of where they stood in the conference. Tuesday's game with Everett started like a playoff game, as the two clubs skated to a tightly played scoreless tie in the first period. The second stanza would see Spokane jump out on a top with a two man advantage on the power play as Jaret Anderson-Dolan extended his goal scoring streak to 5 in a row with his 15th of the year at 8:40 to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead after two.
Everett came out in the third and showed why they're the top team in the West, as they scored two goals in the first 3:33 of the period to take their first lead of the game at 2-1. A defensive breakdown by the Chiefs late in the third led to the Tips wrapping up the game with their 3rd goal of the period at 16:03 to secure their second straight 3-1 victory over Spokane. Spokane's season long win streak came to an end, and the Chiefs ended up seeing a major chance to gain ground on Portland go to the wayside. Tri City also took advantage as they won Wednesday over Victoria to move themselves back within 5 points of Spokane. Things weren't going to get any easier for the Chiefs either, as Vancouver came to town on Friday. The Giants were coming off a 5-0 shut out of Kamloops two nights earlier and were hoping to sweep the season series from Spokane.
The last time the Giants were in Spokane, the Chiefs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period before watching Vancouver roar back for a 6-4 victory. Friday's game almost seemed like deja vu for Spokane as the team got a quick goal from Filip Kral almost 8 minutes in to go up 1-0. The Chiefs then converted back to back power play attempts as Jake McGrew scored at 11:39 and Jaret Anderson-Dolan extended his goal scoring streak to 6 games in a row with his 16th of the season at 19:39 to give Spokane a 3-0 lead after one. Vancouver would get on the board with a power play goal late in the second to cut the margin to 3-1, but the Chiefs countered right back with McGrew's second goal of the night just 1:04 later to go back up by three at 4-1 after two periods. Despite being out shot 28-12 over the final two periods, Spokane goalie Bailey Brkin turned aside 27 on his way to a 37 save performance as Spokane won their first from Vancouver this season with a 4-1 victory. The Chiefs go even better news after the game as Tri City lost at home to Everett to give Spokane a 7 point lead for third with 5 games remaining. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Portland rallied for a win at Prince George to stay 5 points up on the Chiefs for second place and the home ice spot in the first round of the playoffs.
Spokane hoped to close out the home stand on a winning note as they hosted Victoria the next night at the Arena. The Chiefs had won 2 of 3 from the Royals this season, including a convincing 8-3 win in Spokane the last time the two teams played. Victoria was coming off two straight losses at Tri City and Seattle, so they were anxious to finish their U.S. trip on an up note. The Royals were on their 3rd game in 4 nights, so the Chiefs wanted to get out to a quick start, and they did just that as Ethan McIndoe scored just 1:59 into the game to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. The Chiefs would extend the lead at 7:23 when Adam Beckman tipped in a Matt Leduc shot to make it 2-0 after the first period. Victoria would cut the deficit to 2-1 with a goal just over 7 minutes into the second, but the Chiefs went back up by 2 when Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored a goal in his 7th straight game midway through the period to put Spokane ahead 3-1 after two.
The third would see the Chiefs hold Victoria to just 8 shots as Spokane goalie Bailey Brkin kept the Royals off the score sheet. Spokane would get Beckman's second goal of the night with a power play tally midway through the period to go up 4-1. Filip Kral would match his career high with his 8th of the season with a goal just over 2 minutes later to make it 5-1. The Chiefs would cap the scoring as Ty Smith fired home his 7th of the year with just under 4 minutes left to wrap up a 6-1 victory. Beckman matched a career high with a 4 point night on 2 goals and 2 assists, while Kral put up a career high 3 point evening with his goal and 2 assists. Spokane took 3 out of 4 from Victoria in the season series, winning the final 3 games by a combined 21-6. The Chiefs also wrapped up third in the U.S. Division as Tri City lost to Vancouver, so Spokane will now meet Portland in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season.
Spokane got good news as well from Prince George, as the Cougars knocked off Portland to help Spokane pull within 3 points of the Winterhawks for second and with it, home ice in their first round match-up. The Chiefs also have a game in hand as they have 4 games left in their season, while Portland has just 3. Portland will host division champ Everett on Tuesday, and then play a home and home series with resurgent Seattle over the final weekend. The Chiefs meantime will end the final week with 3 games on the road at Kamloops, Kelowna and Tri City Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday before ending the season at home against Tri on Saturday. Spokane will probably have to win out, and will have to get help from Everett and Seattle to overtake Portland for home ice. The Chiefs are playing their best hockey of the season at the right time, let's hope it continues this week. I'll have the call for Tuesday's game on 94.1 the Bear due to Gonzaga basketball, but the rest of the games will be on 103.5 the Game. The pre-game shows start at 6:30 pm and the puck drops will be at 7:05 pm. It's the best time of the year, and we hope to see you at the rink!