The Chiefs had played well at home in two games against division rivals Portland and Tri City, but had two defeats to show for it. Spokane had now dropped four in a row and had fallen into 4th place in the U.S. Division. Spokane then made some roster moves, as they traded forward Taylor Ross to Lethbridge, and send defenseman Tyson Feist to the Spokane Braves. The biggest move of the week though came courtesy of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, when they sent last year's returning scorer Kailer Yamamoto back to the Chiefs for the season. Yamamoto had scored 3 points in 9 games with the Oilers, and it wouldn't take him long to surpass that total in a Spokane uniform.
Spokane would have just two games this past week, as they took a 2 game road trip through the Central Division with back to back games at Lethbridge on Friday and then at Kootenay on Saturday. First up were the Hurricanes, who like the Chiefs, had dropped 4 straight contests. It was the first game for Ross against his former team, and would also mark the debut for Yamamoto this season, so I was curious to see how they would perform. Things didn't start so well for the Chiefs early as the Hurricanes scored 6:45 into the game to make it 1-0 Lethbridge. Spokane came right back 44 seconds later as Tyson Helgesen scored his 2nd of the year on a Yamamoto assist as the game was knotted at one. The Chiefs would get one power play in the first period and Yamamoto showed his value on the man advantage as he found Jaret Anderson-Dolan on a one timer at 14:52 to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead. Yamamoto then capped a 2 on 1 rush short handed off a Lethbridge power play at 17:20 to cap a three point first period and give Spokane a 3-1 advantage after one.
The Chiefs came out in the second and looked like they were on the verge of a blowout as Ethan McIndoe scored midway through the period to put Spokane up 4-1. Lethbridge then started to get back in the game courtesy of the Chiefs taking 4 straight penalties in the period. The Hurricanes would score on their 3rd power play chance to cut the lead in half at 4-2, but the Chiefs would counter on a Ty Smith goal in the waning seconds of the period to go back up 5-2 at the end of two. Lethbridge then scored early in the third to make it a 5-3 game and would get a penalty shot and 3 power play chances to cut the lead to one. Spokane's penalty kill and goalie Dawson Weatherill turned aside every opportunity for Lethbridge the rest of the period, and when Zach Fischer scored on a breakaway with just 1:38 left, the Chiefs had started the road trip with a 6-3 victory. Spokane was out shot 14-5 in the third, but turned aside 7 of 8 Lethbridge power play chances to preserve the win. Yamamoto was terrific in his debut, going for 4 points on a goal and 3 assists, and the Chiefs were hoping to ride that momentum into the next evening's game at Kootenay.
The team headed to Cranbrook the day of the game, and you always worry about bus legs after being on the road most of the afternoon. There was no need to worry as the Chiefs came out and dominated the first period offensively. Spokane out shot Kootenay 22-5 in the first period but would find themselves down 1-0 after the first when the Ice scored with just 1:02 left. As disappointing as the first period was, it didn't get any better in the second when Kootenay's Cam Hausinger scored his second straight goal just over 4 minutes in to give the Ice a 2-0 advantage. Kootenay would then go on the power play to expand their lead, but the Chiefs penalty kill would get Spokane right back into the game. Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored a short handed goal at 4:51 to cut the lead to 2-1, and then A.D. would find Hudson Elynuik net front for another short handed tally 1:08 later to bring the Chiefs even at 2-2. Elynuik then got the puck to Zach Fischer on the rush midway through the period to cap a 3 goal outburst to give Spokane a 3-2 lead. Just when it looked like the Chiefs would take over the game though, Kootenay would come right back and score off the rush late in the period to tie the contest at 3 heading into the third.
Going into the final period, Spokane was able to go on the power play late in the second. The Chiefs were able to cash in on that chance just 42 seconds into the third when Elynuik found Nolan Reid on the weak side to put Spokane back on top at 4-3. The Chiefss would get what turned out to be the game winner midway through the period when Reid got his second of the period on a blast from the point to make it 5-3 Spokane. It turned out to be the game winner as well, as Kootenay would pull their goaiie in the final two minutes and score with a little over a minute and a half left to cut the margin to 5-4. Spokane would take a penalty in the last minute, but with the Ice on a 6 on 4 advantage, the Chiefs nearly scored in the empty net and also forced a face-off in the Ice zone that helped run out the clock on the 5-4 victory. The win capped a two win weekend for the Chiefs and a huge part of it was the penalty kill, as the PK unit went 11-12 with 3 short handed goals scored. Scoring 12 goals in two games doesn't hurt either.
The wins not only snapped a 4 game losing streak, but moved the Chiefs into third place in the U.S. Division past Seattle. Spokane is now just 3 points back of second and 5 points out of first as they get ready for another 2 game weekend. The Chiefs open what will be a 3 game home stand.when they entertain Victoria on Friday and Prince Albert on Saturday. Spokane has been very good on the road, going 7-3-1. Conversely, the Chiefs have been a below average 3-4-0-2 at the Spokane Arena. With the team having only one more road game left in November, Spokane hass to find a way to play as well at home as they do on the road. With Kailer Yamamoto back with the team, the club has depth offensively they haven't had in a good 6 years. This team is capable of playing with any team in this league if they play with energy and structure. They better learn to play well at home as well, because if they don't, it will be a season of what might have been rather than realized potential. I'll have the call this weekend with Friday's game on 1510 KGA and Saturday's on 94.1 FM the Bear. Pre-game's start at 6:30 pm with the puck drops at 7:05 pm. We'll see you at the rink!