SPOKANE, Wash. — There's never an easy time for a team to deal with a rash of injuries. Struggles in games usually follow, and for the Chiefs, that has certainly proven to be the case in the first month of this Western Hockey League season. Coming into the year, the club's strength was measured to be in its' forward group. Most of the team's experience was coming from up front and it was expected the veteran prescience would carry the club in the early going until the young back end group of defensemen got experienced. Well, even the best laid plans can get upended and that has certainly proven to be the case for Spokane this season. The Chiefs have been decimated with several injuries up front in the season's first 4 weeks, with 4 of their forwards laid up for multiple games.
The injury bug began with winger Reed Jacobson going down with a broken leg in a skirmish at Tri City October 15th. He's expected to be gone for several months. Winger Yannick Proske then got a concussion in a head first hit into the boards the next game at Seattle on October 19th. He's returned to the lineup after missing just one game, which has been fortunate for the club. In the team's next outing at Tri City October 23rd, center Bear Hughes went out with an upper body injury and has been on the shelf since. He's on the shelf for the near future. The very next game against Seattle on October 29th, wingers Erik Atchison and Grady Lane both went down with injuries that will keep them on the sidelines for a while. Spokane has had to add forward Braden Plaschewsky to help fill out their forward lineup as defenseman Ben Bonni had to skate up front in the team's last game with Everett because the Chiefs were shorthanded in the forward group.
This doesn't even take into account goalie Mason Beaupit missing both games last weekend due to a lower body injury. Back up Manny Panghli played very well in his first two starts of the season against Seattle and Everett, but the club dropped both games 4-1 as the Chiefs offense failed to find its' footing with its short handed forward group. The team's latest defeat was to Everett, and as the schedule would have it, Spokane welcomed back Everett to the Spokane Arena for a rare back to back home stand with the Silvertips on Friday and Saturday. The Chiefs were 0-2 against the division co-leading Silvertips this year, and had gone just 3-13 against Everett over the last 3 seasons. The hope was the Chiefs could get some of their forward group going and get at least a split in the weekend series before heading out on a 3 game road trip next week at Everett and Victoria.
Friday's game would see the return of Mason Beaupit in goal, which was certainly a boost for the club. The Chiefs got a further boost when they jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Jack Finley goal net front just over 6 minutes into the game. Everett would equalize though as they would score on a penalty shot midway through the period to make it a 1-1 contest after 20 minutes. The Chiefs were able to kill off 3 power play chances in the first as well, as the Silvertips only outshot Spokane by one in the first. The two clubs would continue to play even through the first half of the second period as the Chiefs failed to capitalize on a couple of power play chances. Everett would take the momentum of the successful penalty kills into the back half of the period and would take advantage of a Chiefs turnover with just over 5 minutes remaining in the period to go up 2-1. The goal started a 4 goal explosion for Everett as they rang up those 4 tallies in just 4:53 to take a commanding 5-1 lead after two.
That would bring an end to the night for Beaupit in net as back up Manny Panghli took over in goal for Spokane. The Chiefs went on the penalty kill 3 straight times to start the period but would get on the board first as Finley scored his second straight goal while Spokane was shorthanded less than 2 minutes into the third to cut the Everett lead to 5-2. The Chiefs killed off all 3 Everett power plays at the beginning of the period on their way to a perfect 6 for 6 night on the PK. Spokane then went on the power play 3 consecutive times and would take advantage on a 5 on 3 power play as Blake Swetlikoff scored midway through the third to bring the Chiefs within 5-3. Panghli kept the club in the game with several key saves and Finley would get Spokane to 5-4 as he secured his first hat trick of his career at 15:45 of the period. The crowd was on their feet in the final 2 minutes as the Chiefs pulled Panghli from net to get the extra attacker on. Spokane had a golden chance with just under a minute and a half left when the puck came to Luke Toporowski by the left post. Toporowski, who had 3 assists on the night, saw his game tying attempt saved by Everett goalie Koen McInnes and the Chiefs chance to rally from a 4 goal third period deficit fell just short as Everett got their 3rd straight win over Spokane this season by that 5-4 margin.
The third might have been Spokane's best period of the season, but in the end, the team saw their home record fall to 0-5-1 as the Chiefs were now 10 points out of first place.
Spokane had a chance to salvage the final game of the home stand the next night as the Chiefs and Silvertips met for the third straight time at the Arena. The Chiefs were without yet another forward as rookie Michael Cicek went out with a upper body injury the night before and was unable to play Saturday. Beaupit once again got the start in goal and was sharp from the drop of the puck. He turned aside all 12 shots he faced in the first period and the Chiefs would get out to an early lead for the second straight night as Yannick Proske score with just over 2 minutes left in the frame to take a 1-0 lead after one. Spokane failed to add to the lead in the second, but Beaupit stopped all 10 shots he saw in the second as the Chiefs held their one goal lead into the third. Everett began the third on the power play and they would convert just 43 seconds into the period to even the game at one. The Silvertips carried the play the entire period as they would out shoot the Chiefs 14-0 in the third, but Beaupit held the fort as Spokane was able to hold Everett off the scoreboard the rest of the period to head to overtime all tied at one.
Skating short handed with 5 forwards down, the Chiefs were gassed in the third and that would become apparent when the game went to overtime. Everett got the puck in the Chiefs zone after a turnover and the Tips Hunter Campbell would skate free and fire home the game winner just 1:03 into extras to give Everett their 4th straight win over Spokane this year by a 2-1 margin. Spokane only managed 13 shots on goal total after being shut out in that department in the third. With the injury situation up front, it was a game effort from Spokane and the team did gain a point to remain 2 ahead for Tri City for 4th in the division. The Chiefs are also within 3 of 3rd place Portland, but are now 12 back of division leaders Everett and Seattle.
The Chiefs will still be short handed up front as they'll be down those 5 forwards as they head out on a 3 game road trip this week. Spokane will start off on Wednesday in Everett as they square off with the Silvertips for the 4th straight time. The Chiefs will then head north of the border for the first time since the first week of March 2020 as they make their way to Victoria to face the Royals in back to back games Friday and Saturday. While the team is winless at home, Spokane is 3-2 on the road and will hope to continue that success this week. I'll have the call on 103.5 the Game and 1510 KGA for Wednesday's game at Everett and Friday's game at Victoria. Saturday's game will be on 94.1 the Bear and 790 KJRB due to Gonzaga basketball. The pre-game shows will be at 6:30 pm and the puck drops at 7:05 pm for every game. Let's hope the Chiefs heal up and we hope to see you on the radio!