After impressive back to back 5-1 wins the previous weekend over Tri City and Seattle, the two teams chasing the Chiefs in the standings, Spokane entered the final month of the regular season sitting in third place in the U.S. Division. The Chiefs were just 3 points back of second place Portland and were 10 behind the division leading Everett Silvertips. Spokane would play 4 games in 6 nights this week, with two of them coming against Everett. It presented a golden opportunity for the Chiefs to move up the division standings if they could secure 2 regulation wins over the Silvertips, a team that had won 5 of 8 vs. Spokane this season. The Chiefs had lost their last outing at home against Everett, a 3-2 loss that had snapped a season high 4 game win streak for Spokane. The Chiefs tried to change that as the week began for Spokane with their home date with Everett Tuesday night.
The first period was a well played 20 minutes as the two clubs took 7 shots apiece and saw neither team take a penalty in a scoreless first. The second period would see the game open up offensively from the first shift, as Everett's Garret Pilon scored on a back handed wrap around just 31 seconds into the period to give the Tips a 1-0 lead. Everett would score on their only power play of the game midway through the second on a Riley Sutter tip to go up 2-0. Pilon would cap a three goal second for the Silvertips with his second of the game late in the period to give Everett a commanding 3-0 lead. The Chiefs Eli Zummack would score his 12th of the year off the rush at 17:11 of the period to get Spokane on the board as they trailed 3-1 after two. The third period would see the Chiefs hit the post 3 times, including in the opening minute of the frame, but Spokane would fail to dent the net in the final period. Everett would cap off a 4-1 win with a Connor Dewar goal late in the third, and the Chiefs suffered their third straight home loss to the Silvertips as Everett opened a 12 point lead over Spokane with just 13 games remaining.
The loss pretty much ended the Chiefs hopes of making a run for the division title, but second place is very much attainable, as Spokane came into the weekend just 3 points back of Portland. Portland had lost at home Wednesday to Kamloops to keep the Chiefs within 3 as Spokane opened a 3 games in 3 nights stretch beginning Friday when they hosted Prince George. The Cougars sat in last place in the West, but had battled B.C. Division leader Kelowna to the final horn before falling 6-5 Tuesday. Spokane had won the previous 3 match ups with PG going into Friday, but it was obvious from Tuesday's game in Kelowna that the Cougars weren't going to lay down. Prince George had been on the road for the last week, so the Chiefs were hoping a quick start would demoralize the Cougars early. Spokane jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Kailer Yamamoto goal and then added a Milos Fafrak tally 59 seconds later to take a 2-0 advantage after one. The Chiefs dominated the period, out shooting the Cougars 13-6 and looked to keep it going in the second.
Mission accomplished. The Chiefs scored a season high 4 goals in a second period to blow the game open. Ty Smith led the way with 2 goals in the first 4:02 of the period, including a highlight reel back hander to put Spokane up 4-0. Luke Toporowski and Dalton Hamaliuk capped the period with tallies that put Spokane firmly in control at 6-0. Goalie Dawson Weatherill's shutout bid would be spoiled 4:25 into the third period, but the Chiefs responded with 3 goals from Carter Chorney, Ethan McIndoe and Jeff Faith to put the game away. Not even a late goal from PG in the final seconds could spoil a 9-2 Chiefs rout and a record setting night for defenseman Ty Smith. Smith would set a franchise record with 7 points by a Spokane defenseman with 7 points on 2 goals and 5 assists. The 5 assists also tied a Chiefs record as Spokane swept the 4 game season series from Prince George. The 9 goals matched a season high for the Chiefs and they hoped to keep up the offensive fireworks as they hosted Kootenay in the finale of the three game home stand.
Spokane had won 3 of 4 from Kootenay this year, but 3 of the 4 games had been one goal decisions. The Chiefs had won 5-3 in Cranbrook in the last meeting February 2nd, and were hoping to close out their last home game of February with a win. Milos Fafrak got the Chiefs started with his second goal in as many nights 4:55 into the game to make it 1-0. Kootenay would tie the game on their first power play midway through the first, but Spokane responded with a McIndoe goal off the rush at 11:50 to re-take the lead. The goal was McIndoe's 20th of the season, and quite honestly, if he hadn't had some snake bitten parts of the year, he would be looking at 30 goals this season. The decisive goal of the game came in the final minute of the first when Kailer Yamamoto scored a short handed tally to give the Chiefs a 3-1 lead after one. Kootenay had a chance to tie the game but instead found themselves down two and that Yamamoto goal would be magnified when the Ice scored early in the second to get back within one at 3-2. Once again, the Chiefs responded as Jake McGrew scored from the left circle midway through the second to give Spokane a 4-2 lead after two.
Ty Smith would score his 3rd goal in 2 games early in the third to give Spokane a 5-2 advantage, more than enough to withstand a Kootenay goal late in the third, as the Chiefs came away with their second straight 5-3 victory over Kootenay. The win gave the Chiefs a 4-1 season series win over the Ice, including an impressive 3-0 mark in Cranbrook. Spokane finished with an impressive 13-2-1 mark against the Eastern Conference this season, including a perfect 6-0 record against the East Division. No team in the West has fared as well as the Chiefs against the East this year. Now the task for the Chiefs was to turn that success against the West and their own U.S. Division. Spokane at this point had only lost twice in regulation in their last 17 games, and both of those defeats were home losses to Everett. That is where the Chiefs headed on Sunday to close out the 3 games in 3 nights weekend stretch. The Silvertips had won the season series with their win over Spokane Tuesday at the Arena, but the Chiefs were hoping to end the season match ups with the division leaders on a winning note.
Spokane had won the last meeting in Everett with a 2-1 overtime decision, and it was going to be that type of game that would probably settle this final meeting. The Chiefs had lost just 5 games since the trade deadline, going 14-3-2. All 3 regulation losses and one of the OT defeats had come to the same team...Everett. Spokane needed to show themselves they could beat the Silvertips to give them some confidence heading into a possible post season meeting. The Chiefs went with back up goalie Donovan Buskey, who had lost his last decision in a tight 3-2 decision at the Spokane Arena two weeks earlier. Everett would break out on a top with a goal late in the first to take a 1-0 lead after one. Spokane would come back in the second, and like Everett did Tuesday night at the Arena, the Chiefs would put up 3 straight goals in the period to take control of the game. Riley Woods got it started with his 21st of the year at 7:42 to tie it at one. Riley McKay then gave Spokane the lead for good with his first goal since October 24th at Calgary to make it 2-1 Chiefs. Kailer Yamamoto then capped the scoring with his 19th of the season at 15:59 to give the Chiefs a 3-1 edge after two.
Matching minor penalties at the end of the second left the two teams in a 4 on 4 to start the third. Spokane benefited as Filip Kral snapped home his 6th of the year 1:34 in to make it 4-1 Chiefs. Spokane would cap the scoring when Matt Leduc scored his first career goal late in the game to put the Chiefs firmly in control at 5-1. A late goal from Everett closed out the scoring as the Chiefs secured their second straight win in Everett with a convincing 5-2 victory. It's a huge win for the Chiefs as they not only got the monkey off their back against Everett, but they now know they can beat this team if they have to face them come playoff time. The victory also moved the Chiefs within just one point of second place Portland and two points ahead of Victoria for 4th in the Western Conference. The club is getting more confident by the game, and let's face it, much of this sport...or any other for that matter, is decided between the ears. I've said before this season...and I'll say it again here...the only thing holding this team back is themselves. If they play to the level they're capable, this team could be playing for a while in the playoffs.
Spokane has to get there first, and they'll continue their quest as they head to Tri City and Kelowna this next Friday and Saturday in games 2 and 3 of their 6 game road trip. Friday's game will be on 1510 KGA with Saturday's on 94.1 FM the Bear due to Gonzaga's WCC Tournament game. The pre-game shows are at 6:30 pm with the puck drops at 7:05 pm. Let's hope the boys keep it going and we hope to see you on the radio!