With a two game sweep the previous weekend, the Chiefs had pushed themselves back into a tie with Portland for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Hockey League's Western Conference. Spokane entered the final week of January with three games on the schedule, with two of them against teams they were chasing in the conference and the U.S. Division. The first team up, the Seattle Thunderbirds, who were directly ahead of the Chiefs in the standings with a 7 point lead for third place. Spokane hosted Seattle on Tuesday night at the Spokane Arena in a make up game of the contest iced out the previous Wednesday. The Chiefs had been handled by the T-Birds in the two teams previous meeting in Seattle the week before, so Spokane was hopint to bounce back, and in the process end a two game losing streak against the Thunderbirds.
The two teams battled to a scoreless first period as each club put up 8 shots in the frame. Seattle would get on the board with a power play goal early in the second to go up 1-0. Austin Strand would then score his second goal in two games against the Chiefs late in the period to give Seattle a 2-0 lead after two. Spokane would get back in the game at 5:31 of the third when Eli Zummack scored his 5th of the season on a rebound to cut the lead in half at 2-1. Alex Mowbray would then net his first goal as a Chief at 9:11 to bring Spokane back even at 2-2. The Chiefs then had to kill off a pair of Seattle power plays, including a 1:57 of a 5 on 3 advantage for the Thunderbirds, in the final 4 minutes of the third. Spokane looked to have the game won in overtime when leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto went on a breakaway, but Seattle goalie Rylan Toth poke checked the puck away, leading the T-Birds on a break the other way. The Thunderbirds then won the game when Strand scored his second goal of the night on a rebound at 3:48 of OT to give Seattle a 3-2 win.
The Chiefs were able to pick up a valuable point, but fell a point back of Portland in the standings when the Winterhawks won at home against Kamloops. Spokane then headed out on two road games over the weekend, as they headed to Kootenay and Tri City. First up were the Ice, a team Spokane handled at home the previous Saturday 5-2. The Chiefs had won 3 of 4 against Kootenay in the season series, including a 4-1 win in Cranbrook on January 6th. Spokane started Friday's game well as it looked like it would be two wins in a week over the Ice. Jaret Anderson-Dolan's goal just under 5 minutes into the game lifted the Chiefs to a 1-0 lead as Spokane put up 16 shots in the first period. Kootenay would come back in the second and tie the game on a power play goal early in the period as the two teams headed to the third even at one.
The Ice would jump out quickly as they scored on an odd man rush to take a 2-1 advantage less than 2 minutes into the third. Spokane countered as Eli Zummack scored on a great individual effort just over 4 minutes in to draw even at two apiece. The Chiefs then took back to back penalties to put the Ice on a 5 on 3 advantage, and Kootenay capitalized with a Colton Kroeker goal midway through the third to re-take the lead at 3-2. Spokane would take a 5 minute major penalty late in the third that would take the air out of a comeback attempt as the Chiefs suffered a tough 3-2 loss and also fell 3 points back of Portland in the race for the final playoff spot in the West. Spokane put up 40 shots in the loss and had to head to arch rival Tri City the next night to try and erase the memories of this loss.
The Chiefs had not had a lot success against the Americans this season, losing 5 of 6 in the season series, including the last 4 in a row. Spokane was without leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto, as he departed for the Top Prospects game being played on Monday. One thing that's key to winning in Tri City is you must get off to a good start. That would not happen on this night. The Americans scored on their first 3 shots in the first 4.5 minutes to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Jaret Anderson-Dolan would score for the second straight night at 5:59 to cut the margin to 3-1. Tri City then countered as they scored their 4th goal on 5 shots to go up 4-1 after one. The Chiefs would bring themselves with 4-2 on a Hudson Elyniuk breakaway 9 minutes into the second period. Tri City went back up 3 after scoring on a 4 on 4 midway through the period, but Eli Zummack scored his 5th goal in 7 games to put Spokane within 5-3 after two periods.
The third period would be a disaster for Spokane as the Chiefs gave up 3 goals on 5 shots over the final 7 minutes to lose their 6th in 7 meetings with Tri City 8-3. To make matters worse, the Chiefs fell 5 points back of Portland for the final playoff spot in the West. Spokane has now dropped 3 in a row and will look to turn that around as they head back to open a three game homestand. The Chiefs will play Portland at the end of the stand, as the team is starting to head to must win territory to stay in the playoff hunt. The team will welcome the Central Division leading Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday, host Kamloops on Saturday, and then entertain Portland the following Wednesday. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA on Friday and 790 KJRB on Saturday. The pre-game shows start at 6:30pm with the puck drops at 7:05pm. It's a big weekend for the Chiefs and we hope to see you at the rink!