With just 3 weeks left in the first half of the season, the Chiefs were hoping to continue their turn around performances at the Spokane Arena as they closed out a three game home stand with games against Saskatoon and Kelowna, before finishing the week with a road contest at Tri City. After struggling early in the season on home ice, the Chiefs had won 3 straight at the Arena as they took on Saskatoon Wednesday night. The Blades were the 4th team from the East Division to visit Spokane this year, and the Chiefs were hoping to make it 4 straight against the Eastern visitors this season. Spokane entered the week just one point back of Tri City for second in the U.S. Division, and the Chiefs knew they had to keep picking up wins as Portland had extended their lead in the division with a 5-0-0-1 record on their Central Division road trip.
Saskatoon came into Wednesday's tilt having started their road trip through the U.S. Division with a win in Tri City the night before. Kennewick is alwaysss a tough place to play, so no doubt this result got the Chiefs attention heading in. The Blades would strike first though, as a shot from Kirby Dach hit the post and then hit off Chiefs defenseman Luke Gallagher's face into the net just 2:27 in to give Saskatoon a 1-0 lead. Spokane bounced right back though, as Filip Kral's pass hit right off the skate of Ethan McIndoe into the net only 2:20 later to even the score at 1-1. McIndoe then notched his second of the night on a rebound net front at 13:32 to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead after one. Dach came right back and scored his second of the evening 2:15 into the second to bring the Blades even at 2 apiece. Spokane then killed off a 5 on 3 Blades power play over 1:17 midway through the period to keep the game tied, and when the power play ended, the Chiefs went on a 3 on 1 break where Dalton Hamaliuk's pass bounced off a Saskatoon defender to the stick of an open Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Anderson-Dolan fired home his 10th of the year to give Spokane a 3-2 lead...one they'd never lose.
The Chiefs scored a huge insurance goal off the power play late in the second when the puck took another bounce off a Saskatoon defender and right to an open Hudson Elynuik, who scored his team leading 14th of the season at 18:48 to put Spokane up 4-2 after two. That goal sparked Spokane to dominate the third, as they outshot the Blades 11-1 in the period. Zach Fischer extended the lead to 5-2 just over 3.5 minutes in, and then Jeff Faith capped the scoring with a tip of a Tyson Helgesen shot for his 2nd of the year at 9:48 to wrap up a 6-2 victory. Spokane finished 2-5 on the power play and more importantly, 4-4 on the penalty kill to pick up their 4th straight home win. Spokane had outscored opponents 26-7 over that streak, and were hoping to continue things as they hosted the Kelowna Rockets Friday. Kelowna had been win #2 during that streak as the Chiefs had beaten the Rockets 6-2 just 9 days earlier at the Arena. Spokane was without starting goalie Dawson Weatherill, who came down sick during the week, so the team called up Declan Hobbs, who had started the season in Spokane before being sent to Canada to play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Donovan Buskey got his third straight start for Spokane Friday and the Chiefs staked him to an early lead, as Fischer scored a goal in his 3rd straight game with just 1:04 left in the first period to put Spokane up 1-0 after one. The Rockets got a power play chance at the end of the first on let's say, a veryyy questionable call for a check from behind. Kelowna took advantage as well, as they scored just 41 seconds into the period to even the game at one. The goal propelled the Rockets going forward as they would notch two more goals by the midway point of the stanza to take a 3-1 lead after two periods. Spokane was frustrated offensively on the night, as they would generate 4 power play chances in the third, but would give up a Dillon Dube short handed goal late in the third to fall back 4-1. The Chiefs would salvage the final power play opportunity of the night when Luke Toporowski scored his second of the year at 18:44 to close the gap to 4-2. It was as close as the Chiefs would get though, as Spokane's 4 game home winning streak came to a halt with a 4-2 defeat. Unfortunately on Spokane, the Chiefs failed to gain ground on division leading Portland as well as third place Tri City, who lost at home to Seattle 5-1.
The Chiefs would then head to Tri City to close out the week in search of their first win in Kennewick in two seasons. Last year, a trip to Tri would end in misery for Spokane as the Chiefs went 0-6, while getting outscored 35-17. With just a one point lead over the Americans heading into Saturday, a win by Tri in regulation would put the Chiefs right back into third in the division. With Weatherill still out, the Chiefs turned to recently called back up Declan Hobbs against the Ams. Things didn't start well early, as Tri City scored off a rush midway through the first to take a 1-0 lead. Spokane would bounce back though as Hudson Elynuik hit an open Riley Woods net front for the easy tap in goal at 14:26 to even the game at one. Tri City would score on a power play chance in the final minute of the period though to take a 2-1 lead after one. This in spite of Spokane out shooting the Ams 12-9 in the period. Tri City would then extend the lead to 3-1 on a goal from Jordan Topping off the face-off just over 5 minutes into the second to make it a 3-1 game.
Spokane would start their comeback midway through the second as Ethan McIndoe scored on a rebound of his own shot at 9:57 to bring the Chiefs within 3-2 after two. McIndoe then got the Chiefs even at three with his power play goal just over a minute into the third on another rebound net front. It marked the second game in 3 that McIndoe scored two goals in a game. Spokane kept the pressure on throughout the third, but goalie Patrick Dea turned back 16 of 17 Chiefs shots to force the game to overtime. It was the second straight game the two teams went extra time, as Tri City had won in a shoot out back on November 4th. Spokane would get a different outcome on this night, as Kailer Yamamoto found Ty Smith open net front and Smith buried the game winner 3:27 into OT to garner the Chiefs first win since the 2015-16 season. The win kept Spokane in second place in the division, one point up on Everett and two ahead of Tri City. It was no doubt a huge character win too for the team, as after the previous night's performance, the Chiefs could have rolled over after it was 3-1. Hobbs stepped up big in goal with some key saves to pick up his first win as a Chief as well.
The Chiefs now enter the final two weeks of the first half of the season with 6 games remaining. Spokane will play just two this week before a 4 game week sends the team into the Christmas break. Spokane will travel to Everett on Friday before returning home to face Seattle for the first time this season on Teddy Bear Toss night on Saturday. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA on Friday with the pre-game at 7 pm and the puck drop at 7:35 pm. Saturday's game will be on 94.1 FM the Bear with the pre-game at 6:30 pm and the puck drop at 7:05 pm. It's a big week in the division and we hope to see you at the rink!