SPOKANE, Wash — When the Chiefs began their season long 7 game home stand two weeks ago, the hope was the team would find the formula that led to their success on home ice last season. Spokane was just 4-5-1 at the Spokane Arena this year, a large reason the team found themselves in 4th place in the U.S. Division, 6 points back of first place Everett. The Chiefs were 2-3 on the 7 game stand with just two games remaining as Spokane headed into the weekend with back to back games against Everett and Kelowna. Spokane was coming off a disappointing 4-3 overtime loss to the first place Silvertips the previous Sunday in a game that saw the Chiefs lose on a penalty shot in OT. The defeat was the second straight at home to Everett this season and the Chiefs were determined not to fall a third straight time to the Tips.
In Friday's match up though, the Chiefs faced an Everett team that was welcoming back 4 players from the injured list that missed the previous Sunday's game. Spokane had been below average on special teams the last game out, going 0 for 2 on the penalty kill to an Everett power play that was rated just 16th in a 22 team league entering that game. Things didn't get any better on Friday as the Silvertips scored on their first power play just 2:01 into the game as Gage Gonsalves scored wide open in front of the Chiefs net after a complete breakdown in Spokane defensive coverage. The Chiefs answered back quickly though, as Filip Kral scored his team leading 7th goal of the year at 8:12 of the first to tie the game at one. Gonsalves got wide open again just over 14 minutes into the period and scored his second of the night to make it 2-1 Everett after one.
The Silvertips scored late in the second after a Chiefs turnover at their blue line to take a 3-1 lead into the third. The game appeared over early in the third when Everett scored their second power play goal of the game at 3:18 to go ahead 4-1. Spokane finally broke through on the power play on their 5th attempt of the night at 18:12 of the third when Adam Beckman scored his team leading 7th goal of the season to cut the margin to 4-2. Eli Zummack followed just 29 seconds later when the Chiefs had an extra attacker on to bring Spokane within 4-3, but the Chiefs would get no closer as the club suffered their 3rd straight loss at home to Everett this season by a 4-3 score.
Spokane was now just 4-6-1 at home and had fallen 8 points back of Everett for first in the division. To make matters worse, Tri City won in Calgary to open a 3 point lead on the Chiefs for third in the U.S. Things were not going to be any easier the next night as Spokane welcomed Kelowna to the Arena to close out the 7 game home stand. The Chiefs were a woeful 2-3-1 over the past two weeks, and were hoping to go out on a winning note before beginning a 3 game road trip next weekend through the division. Spokane had lost the first meeting of the season to Kelowna back in game 2 of the season, as the Chiefs gave up 3 power play goals on the way to a 4-3 overtime loss in Kelowna in late September.
Things didn't start any better on Saturday as the Rockets scored after another Chiefs defensive breakdown just over 5 minutes into the game as Kelowna took a 1-0 lead. The Chiefs came back to tie on a 4 on 4 as Luke Toporowski scored on a back hander after rushing the net midway through the period as the two teams headed to the second tied at one. The second ended up being the deciding period in this contest as the Chiefs opened the frame with Filip Kral's team leading 8th goal of the year to take the lead for good at 2-1. Kral is second in the league amongst defensemen in scoring, and has been the Chiefs best defenseman in the first quarter of the season. Spokane then got two goals on rebounds net front from Jack Finley and Bobby Russell 2:28 apart late in the second to take a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
There have been a couple games this season the Chiefs let off the gas with a third period lead and ended up dropping the game, but that wouldn't be the case against Kelowna. Spokane made it a 5-1 game at 5:52 of the period on Adam Beckman's team leading 8th of the year and effectively put the game away. The frustration level took over for the Rockets after that as Kelowna and Spokane filled the scorebook with penalties, including a full line brawl, midway through the period. Spokane then capped the scoring as Bear Hughes scored his 7th of the year late in the game to wrap up a convincing 6-1 victory for the Chiefs. Spokane put up a season high 55 shots as they held the Rockets to just 23 chances in evening the season series at 1-1.
The Chiefs ended their season high 7 game home stand at 3-3-1, earning 7 of the possible 14 points available. It was a disappointing result to go just 50% at home as the team finds itself in 4th in the U.S. Division. It now means the team has to make up the lost points on the road, which is never an easy thing to do. Spokane will face about as tough a road trip as they will encounter all season this week, as they head out for 3 games in 3 nights through the division. The Chiefs will face the three teams they are chasing as they start at second place Portland on Friday, head to third place Tri City Saturday and finish at first place Everett on Sunday. It's a huge trip as a 3-0 performance will launch the Chiefs back towards the top of the division, while an 0-3 showing will plummet Spokane down towards the bottom of the division and Western Conference playoff picture.
It has been a roller coaster season thus far for Spokane as it seems just as the team is finding its' footing, the club reverts back to bad habits and mental mistakes that cost them close games. The Chiefs lead the Western Conference in goal differential, in others words, scoring goals vs. giving up goals. It certainly proves the team is winning games big, like 6-1, vs. losing close ones, like 4-3. In one goal games this season, Spokane is a dismal 1-5, the lone win coming in the season opener at Kamloops. That will have to change if the Chiefs are going to make a move in the U.S. Division. Spokane can do just that this week. I'll have the call on 103.5 the Game and 1510 KGA for the Friday and Sunday's games from Portland and Everett, while Saturday's Tri City game will be on 94.1 the Bear and 790 KJRB due to Gonzaga basketball. Friday and Saturday's games will start with the pre-game shows at 6:30 pm with the puck drops at 7:05 pm. Sunday's game from Everett will have the pre-game at 3:30 pm and the game starting at 4:05 pm. It will be a tough...and true test for Spokane heading forward. We hope to see you on the radio!
Note: the below video discusses the Chiefs welcoming their new head Coach Manny Viveiros prior to this season.