SPOKANE, Wash. — The Chiefs discovered last week that they can indeed win on their home ice, as a victory over Kelowna started Spokane on their way to earning 3 of a possible 6 points against B.C. Division opponents Kelowna and Vancouver. The week ended in disappointing fashion with a 3-1 loss at home to the Giants on Saturday, but the Chiefs were hoping to build off the positives in their team game as they headed into their busiest week of the season, as they prepared to play 4 games in 5 nights beginning with Tuesday's home game with Victoria. The game against the Royals would be Victoria's only trip to Spokane this season, and after getting off to a slow start, the Royals had won 2 of their last 3; including a home win over U.S. Division leader Everett the previous Friday.
Spokane got some good news off the ice as goaltender Mason Beaupit was honored by the league as the WHL's goaltender of the week after posting a 1-0-0-1 mark against Kelowna the previous week. Beaupit's numbers were staggering, with just a 0.96 GAA and .967 save percentage for those two games. He continues to make an impression on NHL scouts as Beaupit should find himself selected in the next draft if his play continues at this pace. Beaupit would be in net Tuesday as the Chiefs hosted the Royals at the Spokane Arena. Spokane was still down forwards Erik Atchison, Grady Lane, Michael Cicek and Reed Jacobson due to injuries, while defenseman Sage Weinstein and Kooper Gizowski were still off at the Capital City tournament in Ottawa.
The club had won its' first home game the previous week against Kelowna and were hoping to make it 2 out 3 at home against the Royals Tuesday. The Chiefs got out to a fast start as Yannick Proske took a Bear Hughes pass and scored 8 minutes in to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. Victoria countered on an odd man rush 5.5 minutes later to tie the game at one. Spokane countered just 59 seconds later as Hughes scored off a Proske feed and it was 2-1 Chiefs. That goal ignited three tallies in just 2:05 for Spokane as Carter Streek scored his second goal of the year on the power play and then Luke Toporowski fired home his team leading 8th of the year to put the Chiefs up 4-1 after one. Spokane put up a season high 18 shots in the first as the team seemed to be firing on all cylinders with one of their best periods of the season.
The second period would not be quite as productive as the Chiefs coughed up a short handed goal less than 3.5 minutes into the stanza to bring Victoria within 4-2. A Royals power play goal midway through the second narrowed the Spokane lead to 4-3 after two periods. Victoria then pulled even early in the third on Tarun Fizer's second straight short handed goal in the game at 6:48 of the third to draw the Royals even at 4-4. Spokane would get a two man advantage on the power play less than a minute later on the power play and would capitalize as Jack Finley scored to put the Chiefs up 5-4. Fizer came right back though with a hat trick goal at 14:04 to re-tie the game at 5-5 and send the contest to overtime.
Spokane had been winless in overtime and shootouts this season, but that winless streak would end on this night as Blake Swetlikoff took a Graham Sward pass and scored net front 2:35 into overtime to give the Chiefs a hard earned 6-5 victory. Spokane put up 41 shots and scored 2 power play goals to get their second home win in their last 3 outings. The win also pushed the Chiefs 3 points ahead of 5th place Tri City in the standings and moved the club 4 points back of third place Portland. Spokane also extended their lead to 4 points over Victoria in the race for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Now the Chiefs hoped to build off that win as they headed West to Everett to take on the division leading Silvertips on Wednesday.
Spokane had not enjoyed a lot of success against the Tips this season, having gone just 0-3-2 against Everett in the previous 5 meetings this year. Everett came in struggling a bit though, having dropped 2 straight, including their first loss in regulation this season their last game against Kamloops. The Silvertips got out to a quick start though in this contest, as a turnover net front by the Chiefs led to a goal just 1:20 into the game to make it 1-0 Everett. Spokane tied things up at one when Yannick Proske scored in his second straight game at 6:25 but a pair of Chiefs miscues in their own zone led to two Everett goals later in the first to give the Silvertips a 3-1 advantage after one. An Everett power play goal in the second made it 4-1, but Jack Finley, who earlier in the day was selected to Team Canada's World Junior selection camp, scored his 7th of the year at 15:01 of the period to bring the Chiefs within 4-2. Everett would counter with a goal of their own just 1:15 later to extend their lead to 5-2 after two.
Spokane was outshot 39-16 through two periods but was still in the game. Any thoughts of a comeback were dashed just 18 seconds into the third as Everett's Jackson Berezowski secured a hat trick goal to put Everett ahead 6-2. The proverbial roof caved in on Spokane from there as the Silvertips scored three more goals, two on the power play, as they outshot Spokane 24-4 in the period on their way to out chancing the Chiefs 63-20 in the game on their way to a convincing 9-2 victory. It was the worst loss of the year for Spokane and was the worst I can recall in the last decade. Let's just say the best thing the Chiefs could do after this game was burn the game disc and move on because there wasn't anything to build upon after this beating.
The Chiefs returned home Friday to take on their 4th Canadian team in the last week and a half as the Prince George Cougars came to the Spokane Arena for the first time in nearly 2 years. The Cougars had lost the last two games of their U.S. Division swing, falling on Tuesday in Seattle and Wednesday in Portland. Spokane was hoping to make it 3 straight for the Cougars and in the meantime, get their own game back in the right direction after the previous outing in Everett. The Chiefs got some good news off the ice as well as Erik Atchison returned from a leg injury that had sidelined him over a month, and Kooper Gizowski and Saige Weinstein returned from the Capital City Challenge to enable the Chiefs to field a full lineup for the first time in 3 weeks.
The team seemed to be energized with the guys back in the lineup as Carter Streek would get the Chiefs on the board 5:40 into the game with his 3rd goal of the season to make it 1-0 Spokane. Prince George would answer with a goal on their first power play chance of the night midway through the period to even the game at 1-1. Spokane would get two straight power plays following the Cougars goal, and would convert the second opportunity as Jack Finley fired home his team high 8th of the season at 15:35 of the frame to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead after one. Spokane out shot Prince George 12-6 in the first and had to feel good about where the stood in the contest.
That would all change in the second period as the Cougars would score back to back goals less than 5 minutes apart midway through the period to take their first lead of the game at 3-2. Prince George got the first goal off a 5 on 3 power play and then scored the go ahead goal right after their 4 minute power play ended. The Cougars would add an insurance goal in the third after a misplay by Chiefs goalie Mason Beaupit. Despite being out shot 30-22 by the Chiefs, Prince George would would come away with a 4-2 victory, in large part due to two power play goals against a suddenly struggling Chiefs penalty kill. The loss sent Spokane's home record to a dismal 2-8-2 and left the Chiefs 3 points back of the Cougars for 7th in the Western Conference standings.
Spokane hoped to finish off the week on a winning note as they were back on home ice the following evening to host the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Chiefs annual Teddy Bear toss night. The Chiefs had struggled against the Thunderbirds in the two clubs previous four meetings, as Spokane had dropped all 4 match ups, losing three of the games 5-3 and the other contest 4-1. Seattle had been upset at home the previous night by Victoria in overtime, so the T-Birds were arriving in Spokane in ill humor. It was the Chiefs that would get the teddy bears flying late in the first period as Yannick Proske scored a goal for the 3rd time in his last 4 games at 18:05 to give Spokane a 1-0 lead after one. Goalie Mason Beaupit kept the Thunderbirds at bay as he turned away all 15 Seattle shots in the first.
The Thunderbirds would draw even early in the second on a goal at 5:55 as the game was 1-1 after two. Spokane was out shot 28-8 through 40 minutes as Beaupit enabled the Chiefs a chance to win it in the third. The Chiefs would take a step towards doing that as Cordel Larson scored his 3rd of the year on the power play 3:32 into the final period to give Spokane the lead back at 2-1. Seattle though would come right back as a goal off a 4 on 4 at 12:28 evened the contest at 2-2 and sent the game to overtime. The OT lasted all of 32 seconds, as for the second time this week, the Chiefs would get the game winner as Graham Sward finished off a 3 on 1 rush to give Spokane their first win over Seattle this season by a 3-2 score in overtime. The Chiefs were out shot 38-19 in the contest, but Beaupit was stellar in goal to get the club their second win of the week. Spokane won the special teams battle as well, going 1-3 on the power play and 1-1 on the penalty kill.
With just 2 weeks left in the first half of the season, the Chiefs will now focus on getting healthy and finishing strong over the final 5 games before the Christmas break. Spokane will face the Portland Winterhawks in their next 4 meetings before wrapping up the first half in Everett on Sunday the 19th. The Chiefs are chasing Portland for third in the U.S. Division and have an excellent opportunity to make up some ground with 4 straight with the Hawks. After the grind of 4 games in 5 nights this past week, the club will only have back to back games Friday and Saturday in Portland before returning home to host Portland the following Friday and Saturday at the Spokane Arena. I'll have the call of this weekend's games from the Rose City on 103.5 FM the Game and 1510 AM KGA with Friday's game a 6:30 pm pre-game and 7:05 pm puck drop. Saturday's game will be a 5:30 pm pre-game and 6:05 pm puck drop. Chiefs are 0-1 against Portland this season after a shutout loss back in game 5 of the year on October 10th. Let's hope for some different results this time around and we'll see you on the radio!