For the first time since the 2013 playoffs, the Chiefs advanced to the Western Conference semi finals after dispatching Portland in five games in the opening round.
Spokane had won three straight against the Winterhawks to move on to round 2, where they would meet the U.S. Division champion Everett Silvertips. Everett was also the defending Western Conference champions, and had a number of returners from the squad that lost the title to Swift Current last season.
The Silvertips also won their first round series in five games as they ran over Tri City 9-1 in the deciding game to move forward to meet the Chiefs in the two teams first playoff meeting since the 2015 playoffs. In that series, Spokane fell in overtime in game 6 to lose four games to two, part of the Chiefs streak of first round losses in the post season that had taken place since 2013.
Besides Tri City, the Chiefs had played Everett more than any opponent they faced this past regular season. Spokane didn't have a lot of success in the season series, dropping six of eight. Three of the eight games went to overtime or shootout, with the Chiefs winning two of them.
With the exception of the series opener in early October, every game was close and decided late. The Chiefs played the Silvertips with their full lineup only once, that coming in the last meeting in early March in which Everett won 3-1 in Spokane. The Chiefs got a good lesson on defensive hockey and how to win with it from the Tips in that contest, and Spokane learned from it as they had only lost two games since that encounter a month ago. The series would start in Everett for the first two games. Spokane had won just once in four meetings on the West Side, winning in November on a Riley Woods overtime goal that capped off a hat trick for the forward in a 3-2 victory.
Saturday's game one would see Spokane jump out to a quick 1-0 lead as Ethan McIndoe scored off a Jack Finley feed just 2:01 into the game. Everett would equalize midway through the period on their second of three power plays in the first to send the game to the first intermission tied at one. The Chiefs and Silvertips went on a 4 on 4 after matching minor penalties 55 seconds into the second period and Spokane would capitalize on the open ice as Eli Zummack scored his second of the post season on a partial breakaway 1:41 into the period to make it 2-1 Chiefs. Everett would come back and tie the game again with just 25 seconds left in the second on a Jackson Berezowski rebound goal as the two teams headed to the third even at two.
Luke Toporowski put Spokane back on top with a goal in his 4th straight game as he one timed a Zummack feed only 39 seconds into the third period to put the Chiefs back on top at 3-2. Spokane got one power play the entire game, and the league's top rated power play took all of eight seconds to convert as Riley Woods scored in his 6th straight playoff game with his team leading 5th of the playoffs at 10:20 to give the Chiefs a 4-2 advantage. Berezowski scored his second of the night on a rebound of his own shot at 13:08 to pull Everett within 4-3, but McIndoe would put the Chiefs in command with his second of the game on a wrap around at 16:26 to give Spokane a commanding 5-3 lead. Luc Smith would cap the scoring as he scored an empty netter with 1:54 left as the Chiefs secured their first win in regulation over Everett in 9 games this season with a 6-3 victory.
The win gave the Chiefs a 1-0 series lead and got Spokane home ice in the best of seven. Spokane hoped to make it two straight the very next afternoon as they faced the Silvertips in Game 2. The Chiefs held the Tips off the board early in the first after killing off a power play, but right at the end of Everett's second man advantage, the Silvertips struck first as a Wyatt Wylie shot from the point beat goalie Bailey Brkin at 16:01 to give Everett a 1-0 lead. Spokane responded quickly, as Jake McGrew scored a highlight reel goal two minutes later to draw the Chiefs even at 1-1 heading into the second frame. Spokane used that momentum into the second period as they had the only two power plays of the stanza. The Chiefs converted the second one as Eli Zummack scored his second straight goal in as many games in Everett with a power play goal at 16:56 to give Spokane a 2-1 lead after two.
In the third, the Silvertips out shot the Chiefs 14-5 and put a lot of pressure on Spokane defensively in the final minutes, but the Chiefs held Everett off the scoreboard as Brkin put up 30 saves on the night. Spokane would cap the scoring as Luc Smith scored into the Tips empty net for the second straight night with 31 seconds left to wrap up a 3-1 victory and a 2-0 series lead. Despite being out shot 31-17 in the game, Spokane had made the most of their scoring opportunities to take two in a row on the road. Everett had only lost seven times on home ice in regulation all season and had only lost back to back home games once. Now Spokane had come in and done the unthinkable, as the Chiefs now head back to Spokane needing to win two out of three at home to advance.
The Chiefs will host games 3, 4, and 5 at the Spokane Arena Wednesday, Friday and Saturday this week.
Spokane lost three of four at home to Everett this season, so the team will have to play at the top of their game if they hope to avoid a trip back to Everett for games 6 and 7. The Silvertips had some good crowds show up for the first two games of the series, so I hope Chiefs fans show up in force this week to support this team that is playing its' best hockey of the season. I'll have the call on 103.5 FM the Game, and 1510 AM KGA with the pre-game shows at 6:30 pm and the puck drops set for 7:05 pm. Let's hope the Chiefs keep it up and we hope to see you at the rink!