SPOKANE, Wash. — The final week of November would prove to be another challenging one for the Chiefs, as the club faced 3 teams they are battling directly for playoff positioning in the Western Conference.
The first two games of the week would be re-matches of playoff series from last season while the 3rd would be against a club Spokane was neck and neck with in the standings entering the week.
The Chiefs were getting healthy- knock on wood - and starting to find their footing over the past couple of weeks, as the team had won 5 of their last 6 games to move into third place in the U.S. Division behind co-leaders Everett and Portland.
First up would be the division leading Everett Silvertips as the two clubs squared off for the fifth time this season. The first 4 meetings had not gone the Chiefs' way, as they had dropped all 4, losing three 4-3 decisions at home before falling 2-0 at Everett the previous Sunday.
That defeat had been the only one Spokane had over the past two weeks, so the Chiefs were hoping to finally break through as they began the week Wednesday on the West Side.
Things didn't begin well at all on Wednesday as the team had to leave behind forwards Cordel Larson and Brandon Reller after they got sick on the bus a half hour out of Spokane.
The team didn't look so good on the ice against the Silvertips either as Everett out shot Spokane 14-7 in the first period and scored at 13:01 of the period to take a 1-0 lead after one.
Everett scored a power play goal just 1:13 into the second to go up 2-0. Spokane would go 0 for 4 on the power play through the first part of the second period and yet were being out shot by 10.
The Silvertips then scored with their 4th line on the ice at 7:55 and then capped their scoring with another power play goal late in the second to take a commanding 4-0 lead after two.
The Chiefs got two more power plays to start the third, yet showed little on the man advantage on the night, going 0 for 6. Everett's power play meantime went 2 for 4 as the Silvertips out shot the Chiefs 37-26 on their way to a convincing 4-0 victory.
It was Spokane's 5th straight loss to Everett this year, and was by far the worst of the season for Spokane. Goaltending from Lukas Parik and Campbell Arnold kept this game from being a total blowout as Spokane now found themselves 9 points back of the first place Silvertips in the U.S. Division going into Friday's home game with Vancouver.
It was the first meeting of the season between the two clubs that met in the Western Conference Finals last season. Spokane lost that series in 5 games after blowing 2 third period leads in games two and four. Cordel Larson was back in the lineup Friday after missing Wednesday's game in Everett due to the flu.
The Chiefs would come in the first period a far different team than they were against the Silvertips as Spokane jumped out to a 1-0 lead midway through on Adam Beckman's team leading 12th goal of the season.
Less than 4 minutes later, Eric Atchison tipped home a Bobby Russell shot to put Spokane ahead 2-0 after the first. Neither team scored in the second as the Chiefs took their 2 goal advantage to the third.
Remember that mention of the Chiefs losing 2 third period leads in last year's playoffs? History has a funny way of repeating itself and it did on this night for Spokane.
Vancouver scored on a breakaway less than 4 minutes into the third to cut the lead to 2-1. The Chiefs spent the first half of the third period watching the Giants skate circles around them and Vancouver would pull even midway through the period on a Milos Roman tally to knot the contest at 2-2.
Spokane settled down in the final half of the period, but the game headed to overtime as the Giants carried the momentum of the third period into the extra frame. Spokane failed to get a shot on goal in the OT while Vancouver would convert their 4th chance on a breakaway over 3 minutes in to cap a come from behind 3-2 victory.
The pattern for Vancouver's win was eerily familiar and left the Chiefs with a bitter taste after a blown opportunity for 2 points in the standings.
Spokane did benefit though as Tri-City lost at home to Victoria Friday at home 3-1, so the Chiefs pulled 2 points ahead of the Americans for third in the U.S. Division.
As for Victoria, they were 2-0 on their quick swing through the U.S. after beating both Seattle and Tri City over the previous 3 nights. Spokane handled the Royals the last time they visited the Arena, but Victoria was without Gary Haden, one of their top forwards, who had scored 3 goals in 2 games on the U.S. trip.
Spokane sent out Campbell Arnold in net for his first start in nearly two weeks, and he struggled in the first period as the Royals put up two goals in 2:06 late in the first period, one of them from Haden, to take a 2-0 lead after one.
After just 5 shots on goal in the first, the Chiefs came out a more determined offensive team in the second. Spokane's second line of Luke Toporowski, Bear Hughes and Eli Zummack took over for Spokane in the period and got the Chiefs on the board late in the period when Hughes finished off a Toporowski feed for his 10th goal of the year to cut the margin to 2-1.
Unfortunately for Spokane, the Chiefs saw the Royals score just 59 seconds after Hughes goal to re-take a two goal lead at 3-1 heading into the third. It was looking like Spokane would suffer their third straight loss on the week, as the Chiefs were a dismal 2-9 when they were tied or trailing after two periods.
The club would get the lift they needed 9:35 into the third when Eric Atchison scored his second goal in as many nights on a rebound to bring the Chiefs within 3-2. Just 3:23 later, Spokane would pull even as Adam Beckman notched his team leading 13th of the season to make it 3-3 and send the Chiefs to overtime for the second straight night.
In the OT, Filip Kral would cap the comeback with the game winner 2 minutes into the extra frame to lift the Chiefs to a thrilling 4-3 victory. Spokane out shot the Royals 19-5 over the third period and overtime, a complete reversal of the team's performance against Vancouver the night before.
The win salvaged the final game of the week for Spokane and kept them 2 points ahead of Tri City for third in the U.S. Division and pulled the Chiefs within 6 points of division co-leaders Everett and Portland, who both lost on Saturday.
Spokane now has just 3 weeks left in the first half of the regular season, and will head into December with 3 games this week. Two will be played at home, leaving Spokane with just one more home game in December.
The Chiefs will start the week Tuesday by hosting Seattle, before heading to Vancouver for a re-match with the Giants on Friday and finishing the week hosting Tri City on Saturday in the annual Teddy Bear Toss night.
Tuesday and Saturday's home games will be at 7:05 pm, while Friday's game from Vancouver will be a 7:35 pm start. I'll have the call on 103.5 FM the Game and 1510 AM KGA starting with the pre-game shows at 6:30 pm on Tuesday and Saturday and 7 pm on Friday. Another big week is ahead for the Chiefs and we hope to see you at the rink!