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CHIEFS BLOG: Chiefs step closer to playoff berth

Wrap up of Chiefs two game week vs. Everett and Seattle

SPOKANE, Wash. — Four games in two weeks. That is what the Chiefs season boiled down to as they made their final push for a playoff berth in the Western Hockey League's post season. Spokane came into the next to last week of the regular season with 49 points, tied with Prince George for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Chiefs were also just a point behind Vancouver and Victoria for the 6th and 7th spots as the West was shaping up to be an old fashioned barn burning finish in the fight for the post season. Spokane would play their next to last week with their final games in the U.S. Division as they hosted division leading Everett on Wednesday before heading to Seatte on Saturday. The week was going to be a challenge at the least for the Chiefs as Spokane had won just 3 of 24 games against the Silvertips and Thunderbirds this season.

The three wins had come against Seattle as the Chiefs were a woeful 0-10-2 against Everett this season having lost those 12 games by a combined goal total of 63-24. That's an average of score of 5-2 in each loss. Spokane had been drilled all year in Everett, but had come closest to victory in two overtime losses in Spokane in the first 4 games played in the series in October and early November. Since those losses, the Chiefs had not come within 3 goals of the Silvertips in anyyy of the last 8 meetings. It had been pure dominance by the Silvertips against the Chiefs. Spokane was hoping the 13th match up of the season would prove to be the charm for the Chiefs late season playof push.

Coming off a 3 wins in 3 nights weekend, the Chiefs would go back to goalie Mason Beaupit in net after his 3 straight victories in Kamloops and Vancouver. Spokane went with an almost similar lineup as they trotted out in Vancouver with the exception of Michael Cicek in up front for Jake Gudelj. Wednesday's game would see the Silvertips jump out to an early 1-0 lead on an Olen Zellweger goal from the left blue line past a screened Beaupit 4:41 into the game. The Chiefs got a power play chance just over a minute later but was in the final half minute of the man advantage with nothing on the board. Everett would help out Spokane with another penalty with 22 seconds left on the first infraction to give the Chiefs a 2 man advantage. The Chiefs would convert with just 2 seconds left on the 5 on 3 as Chase Bertholet scored from the left circle to tie the game at one. It was a huge goal as Spokane was able to get over a minute and a half of the remaining power play. The team didn't need nearly that long to cash in as Cade Hayes shot from the left side came just 26 seconds after Bertholet's to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead after one.

As well as the Chiefs played in the first, the Silvertips would turn it around and take it to Spokane in the second. The Chiefs didn't help their cause by taking 4 straight penalties in the frame, allowing Everett's second ranked power play to operate for nearly half the period. Everett would score on the first power play, but Beaupit would stone the Tips the rest of the period as he turned aside 18 of the 19 Everett shots to send the game to the third tied at 2-2. Spokane had been dominated in the shot department, being out chanced 19-5 in the period while going 3 for 4 on the penalty kill. In the third, the Chiefs got back on their game with 16 shots on goal but were unable to find the net for the go ahead tally. Beaupit and the Spokane defense did their job too as they kept the Silvertips at bay, allowing Everett just 10 shots in the third. Neither team was able to take advantage in the final 20 minutes as the two teams headed to overtime for the third time this season.

Everett had won the two previous overtime contests, with both of those games coming in the first 4 meetings of the season. The Chiefs were determined not to lose three in a row. Off the opening face-off, defenseman Graham Sward hit Nick McCarry on a stretch pass at the Everett blue line. McCarry went in and scored on a back hand just 10 seconds into OT to give the Chiefs their first win over Everett this season with a 3-2 victory. The win was the Chiefs season high 4th in a row and lifted Spokane to 51 points and 6th place in the West. With Prince George's loss to Kelowna, Spokane was now a point ahead of both Vancouver and Victoria and 2 points up on the Cougars. Now the Chiefs were in a prime position to determine their own fate over the final 3 games of the season as they would play all of them on the road.

Next up for Spokane was their final meeting of the season with Seattle on Saturday in Kent. The Chiefs had won just 3 of 12 meetings with the Thunderbirds this year and just one of five in Kent on the T-Birds home ice. Seattle had won 5 of the last 6 contests with Spokane, but the Chiefs had won the last meeting with a 5-3 victory at the Spokane Arena on February 25th. Spokane had got some help the night before as both Vancouver and Victoria had lost in regulation to keep those two teams a point back of the Chiefs in the playoff race. The Chiefs knew Saturday's meeting with Seattle was huge as Victoria was visiting Prince George that same night, so the Chiefs knew the winner of that game would gain 2 points in the standings. Spokane would need a win to keep pace in the standings.

The next to last road trip of the season would turn into an eventful one as a multi car accident at the top of Snoqualmie pass would close I-90 for about 5 hours. The Chiefs got caught up in it as the team bus sat on the pass from 3 to 7 pm, forcing the game in Seattle to start nearly 2 hours late. Seattle would jump out to a 1-0 lead 11 minutes into the game. The Chiefs had 3 power play chances in the opening frame, including a 1:33 5 on 3 opportunity, but failed to take advantage and were down one heading into the second. The Thunderbirds scored 2 goals in the first 13:12 of the second to take a 3-0 lead, but Spokane would get a momentum building goal on the power play from Bear Hughes with just 4 seconds left in the period to cut the margin to 3-1 after two.

Spokane would make it a one goal game just 1:38 into the third when #1 overall bantam pick Berkly Catton scored his first career WHL goal to make it 3-2 Seattle. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the comeback would end there as Seattle scored 3 goals in just a 2:14 span midway through the period to salt away a 6-2 victory. The loss snapped the Chiefs season high 4 game win streak and gave Seattle their 10th win over Spokane in 13 meetings this season. Special teams were a big difference as Seattle went 2-3 on the power play while Spokane was just 1-6. Seattle dominated puck possession as well, outshooting the Chiefs 50-25 on the night. The performance was not exactly indicative of the team's play of late and there's no doubt the arduous travel of the day played a factor, but the team didn't play one of its best games, that's for sure.

Spokane now goes into the final 2 games of the regular season tied with Prince George for 6th in the West with 51 points, just a point ahead of Vancouver and Victoria. Four teams fighting for the final 3 playoff berths, separated by just one point heading into the final week of the season. Vancouver has the advantage as they have 4 games left in the season, while the Chiefs, Prince George and Victoria each have two. Vancouver is at Kelowna Sunday, host Seattle Wednesday, host Kelowna Friday and travel to Kamloops Saturday. Prince George is at Kamloops Friday and at Kelowna on Saturday. The Chiefs and Royals face off against each other in the two teams final two regular season games Friday and Saturday in Victoria. Spokane knows if they win one in regulation, they will probably get in. Win two and the Chiefs stand a good chance of finishing 6th or 7th. Lose both and the team is probably heading home for the year. It doesn't get any more dramatic than that! I'll have the call from Victoria Friday and Saturday on 101.1 FM due to Indians baseball with the pre-game shows at 6:30 pm and the puck drops at 7:05 pm. It should prove to be an exciting weekend of hockey and we hope to see you on the radio!

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