While it was great the Chiefs were back on the ice playing meaningful games again, the first weekend of the season wasn't very successful in the win -loss column as Spokane lost all three games to U.S. Division rivals Seattle, Everett and Portland. Spokane did manage to get one point with a shootout loss to Seattle, but the club was sitting in last place in the division as they headed back to the Spokane Arena for their home opener against the team they had opened the season with the previous Friday, Seattle. The Thunderbirds had lost their last game last Saturday against Portland, so the two teams were hoping to get on the winning track with Friday's contest.
It felt weird being back in the Spokane Arena as there were zero fans in the building. In addition, the Arena is a mass vaccination site for the Covid 19 vaccines, so while there were plenty of people there, they were curtained off up on the concourse. This led to a windy path around the building to get to the press box to do the game for radio. The routine I've become accustomed the past 18 seasons is all out the door this season as I'm tested for Covid when I come in the building, go a completely different route to the press box up top the arena, and there is no socializing in the media room with other scouts or personnel from around the league. It's a very sterile environment and one quite frankly I hope will disappear as people get vaccinated against this virus.
Spokane was hoping their home ice would help them get their first victory of the season, but without any fans, with the exception of the cardboard picture cutouts in the seats, it was going to be clearly on the Chiefs shoulders to generate the energy to skate past the Thunderbirds. Spokane was still without center Jack Finley, who was still nursing a shoulder injury, so the Chiefs depth up front was definitely going to be tested by Seattle's front lines. Friday's game was unlike the previous week's tilt as Seattle would jump out to the early lead midway through the period. The Thunderbirds were dominating early offensively as they put up some point blank grade A chances on Chiefs goalie Campbell Arnold, but Arnold kept the Chiefs in the game by making the saves to keep the contest with a one goal deficit for Spokane. Two of those big saves came against T-Bird forward Connor Roulette, but late in the first Roulette broke through on his third attempt on a shot from the left side to give Seattle a 2-0 lead after one. It was a huge goal as the Thunderbirds seized the momentum of the game and carried it forward.
Seattle scored again midway through the second as Roulette netted his second of the game to make it 3-0 T-Birds. The Chiefs put up 15 shots on goal in the period, but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard as Seattle goalie Thomas Milic turned away 24 Spokane shots through 40 minutes. The air seemed to go out of the Chiefs balloon in the third as Seattle put up two more goals while Milic denied 10 more Spokane shots. In the end, the Chiefs were shutout for the second time in 4 games this season as the Thunderbirds had their second straight win over Spokane by a 5-0 margin. It wasn't exactly the home opener the Chiefs were hoping for, but in retrospect it shouldn't have come as a surprise as Spokane has dropped their last 3 home openers. The team has bounced back from those setbacks so the hope was Spokane would find their offense and get in the win column when the team headed down Highway 395 to face the Tri City Americans.
Tri City had been shut out by a 10-0 margin in home and home defeats to the Everett Silvertips in their last 2 games. Someone was going to break their shutout streak Saturday in the first of 8 regular season meetings between the Chiefs and the Americans. This game would see the Chiefs get off to a better start than the night before, but for the 4th straight period Spokane could not find the back of the net as the two teams were scoreless after one. The Americans took over offensively in the second as they out shot the Chiefs 12-4 in the stanza. Tri City would break through on the scoresheet on a partial breakaway by Connor Bouchard to take a 1-0 lead after two. Chiefs back up goalie Mason Beaupit played well on the evening, much like he did the week before in Everett, but for the second straight start his efforts were for naught as the Chiefs offense came up empty.
In the third, a Chiefs turnover at the blue line led to a 2 on 1 rush that ended up in a Samuel Huo goal at 4:12 of the period to give the Americans a 2-0 advantage. Spokane had chances in the third, including a 4 minute power play opportunity late in the frame, but failed to capitalize as the power play went 0-6 on the night. The Chiefs pulled Beaupit from goal late in the game, but gave up an empty net goal in the final 32 seconds as Tri City blanked the Chiefs 3-0. Spokane out shot Tri 13-7 in the third but failed on all 3 of their power plays as the team's offensive woes continued. The team has been kept off the scoreboard for three of their five games this season and for 3 of the 15 regulation periods Spokane has played thus far. The Chiefs are now 0-4-0-1 on the year and received more bad news during the week when center Jack Finley was ruled out for the abbreviated season to have shoulder surgery. Finley is expected back for next season when it starts in October, but he will certainly be missed in this campaign.
Spokane will get a full week of practice as they'll be off until Saturday when they travel back down to the Tri Cites to take on the Americans for the second straight game. The Chiefs then head back home to open a 4 game homestand on Easter Sunday when they entertain the Everett Silvertips for the first time this year. Hopefully the club will find a way to score soon as the season is now approaching the 1/4 pole. Saturday's game will be at 6:05 pm from the Tri Cities while Sunday's tilt with Everett will be a 5:10 face off. I'll have the call on 103.5 FM the Game and 1510 KGA starting with the pre-game shows a half prior to face off. Let's hope the Chiefs find their offensive prowess and their first win over the weekend. We hope to see you on the radio!