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CHIEFS BLOG: Chiefs try to cue road woes in B.C

The Chiefs have failed to win away from the Spokane Arena since a New Year's Eve victory at Tri City on the last day of 2021.

SPOKANE, Wash. — While the calendar year of 2022 has not been particularly kind to the Chiefs, playing on the road in 2022 has been woeful at best for Spokane. The Chiefs have failed to win away from the Spokane Arena since a New Year's Eve victory at Tri-City on the last day of 2021. 

Since then, it's been an 0-6-2 performance on the road for the Chiefs. 

With 18 games left in the regular season, only five of those contests are at home in Spokane, so the Chiefs have better find a way to pick up wins away from Spokane or there will be no postseason to look forward to for the club.

March saw the team start the month on the road with three games in 4 nights jaunt through the B.C. Division with games at Kamloops and Prince George. It was the first trip for the Chiefs into Canada since Thanksgiving weekend as they played in Kelowna the day after the holiday in their only game North of the border so far this season.

The Chiefs would begin the trip taking on the division-leading Kamloops Blazers. Kamloops had drilled the Chiefs 6-0 in Spokane on January 15th.

Much had changed since then, including the two teams making a trade deadline deal that saw the Chiefs send leading goal scorer Luke Toporowski to the Blazers for Nick McCarry and a draft pick. Kamloops has surged, clinching a playoff berth with a month and a half left in the season, while Spokane is fighting to get in the postseason, finding themselves in a three-way tie for the 8th and final playoff berth in the West entering Wednesday's game. 

Kamloops native Manny Panghli would get the start in goal for Spokane, while fellow Kamloops native Carter Streek would get the start at right-wing in his first game in his hometown in his junior career.

The Blazers would strike first as a goal off a face-off less than 5 minutes in would give Kamloops a quick 1-0 lead. McCarry would score on his old teammates in his first game back to the rink he had called home with a slap shot at 7:22 to even the game at one heading into the second. 

McCarry had scored the Blazer's first goal in Kamloops win in Spokane in January, so the Chiefs were hoping his goal would have similar success for them on this night. 

Panghli was busy throughout the game, turning aside 14 Kamloops shots in the first to keep it a 1-1 game heading to the second. The Blazers would put up 14 more shots in the second and score twice in 1:25 late in the period to go up 3-1. Toporowski had the second goal at 17:27, his team-leading 35th of the year, as he joined McCarry in scoring against his old team. 

The Chiefs would answer just 53 seconds after Toporowski's goal as Cade Hayes notched his first in a Spokane sweater with 1:40 remaining in the period to cut the Kamloops lead to 3-2 after two.

Spokane was very much in the game despite being outshot 29-16 through two. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the Blazers continued their offensive pressure in the third and scored two goals in the first 4:12 of the period to take command at 5-2. 

Spokane then committed four of the five penalties in the third, including back-to-back infractions for too many men on the ice and a delay of the game just 3 seconds apart. 

Kamloops scored on the 5 on 3 and then tacked on another power-play tally in the final minute to wrap up a 7-2 victory. The Chiefs were outshot 42-22 in the contest and were just 0-1 on the power play and 3-5 on the penalty kill. The third period just snowballed on Spokane as the Blazers, rated 8th in the latest CHL national poll, showed the Chiefs why they are so highly ranked. 

The Chiefs now had to flush that loss as they headed North to face a Prince George team that was only 6 points ahead of Spokane for 7th place in the conference.

The Chiefs had knocked off the Cougars in overtime in Spokane the last time the two teams met on Feb. 2. Reed Jacobson's goal in the final 30 seconds of OT gave Spokane a 3-2 victory and had evened the season series at a game apiece. Now Spokane was in a position to make a move up towards the Cougars, or fall further back in the playoff race. Friday's game would see Mason Beaupit back in net for Spokane after he picked up 2 wins the previous weekend at home against Seattle and Tri-City.

The Chiefs would welcome back Yannick Proske to the lineup after he had missed the previous 3 weeks due to injury. Spokane would get a power-play chance just 3 minutes into the game and would convert as Chase Bertholet scored his 12th goal as a Chief and 20th overall at 4:20 to put Spokane up 1-0. Prince George would equalize late in the period on a Johnny Hooker tally as the two clubs headed to the second even at 1-1. 

The Cougars used the momentum of that goal to take the lead in the second. Prince George scored off a 4 on 4 after a blown Chiefs defensive assignment to take a 2-1 lead. PG then scored a power-play goal just 1:57 later to go ahead 3-1 and at this point, it looked like Spokane was heading for another road loss. 

The Chiefs came right back though as Bear Hughes found Ty Cheveldayoff on the left wing on an odd-man rush and Cheveldayoff scored his 4th of the year to bring Spokane within 3-2. Prince George would put the Chiefs on the power play 4 times in the second and would pay the price the third time as Hughes found Nick McCarry in the low right circle with just 47 seconds left as McCarry's 6th goal as a Chief and 13th overall would get Spokane even at 3-3. 

Prince George would take yet another penalty with only 12 seconds left in the second as Spokane would take their 6th power play into the third.

The Chiefs would capitalize just 37 seconds into the third on Graham Sward's 8th goal of the year to take their first lead since 1-0 at 4-3. Goalie Mason Beaupit and the defense took over from there as Prince George would get a power play in the final 3 minutes and would pull their goalie to get a 6 on 4 advantage. 

Spokane was able to turn away every shot as Beaupit turned aside 10 shots in the third to preserve a huge 4-3 road victory. It was the Chief's first road win since New Year's Eve at Tri-City and lifted the team into sole possession of 8th place in the conference, one point ahead of Victoria and two up on Tri-City. Spokane was now just 4 points back of 7th place Prince George and had a chance to get within two of the Cougars with another regulation win the next night in PG. 

The Chiefs took full advantage of Prince George's lack of discipline, going 3 for 7 on the power play while limiting the Cougars to just 3 power-play chances.

Spokane needed to do more of the same the next night to send the Cougars to their 9th straight home loss and 6th in a row overall. Prince George was going to be a desperate team and Spokane needed to match their intensity in the final game of the road trip.

The Chiefs would do that...and then some in the first period of Saturday's second game of the series. Spokane would once again strike first as Yannick Proske hit an open Carter Streek net-front just over 5 minutes into the game to give the Chiefs an early 1-0 lead. 

Unlike the game before, Spokane didn't allow Prince George to tie the game as the Chiefs would get a 2 goal advantage as Nick McCarry would score on Spokane's second power-play chance of the period at 15:30 to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead heading into the second. The Cougars would cut the lead in half 3.5 minutes into the middle frame on a power-play tally to make it a 2-1 game. 

Spokane came right back just 1:07 later as McCarry would score his second goal of the game to put the Chiefs ahead 3-1. It marked the 4th straight game McCarry had scored and was his first multi-goal game of his Spokane career.

In the third, the Cougars would turn up the pressure offensively as they would pepper goalie Mason Beaupit with 19 shots in the period. Prince George would also pull their goalie in the final 4 minutes for a 6 on 5 advantage. Beaupit and the defense would turn away every Cougar shot as Spokane would hold off PG for a 3-1 victory and the Chief's second straight win on Cougars home ice. 

With the win, the Chiefs moved 3 points ahead of Victoria for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Royals lost both games over the weekend as did Tri-City, as the Americans are now 4 points back of the Chiefs in the West. Spokane has now moved within just 2 points of the 7th place Cougars and are within 4 points of 6th place Vancouver. 

Who would have thunk it a couple of weeks ago when the Chiefs were floundering in 10th and last place in the conference?

It just goes to show that any kind of run, winning or losing, can take a team up or down in the standings in no time. The schedule is still challenging for Spokane as they have just 5 home games left in the remaining 14 games in the regular season. 

Four of the next five games will be at the Spokane Arena for the Chiefs, so a big two weeks await the team as they head home after a long road trip through British Columbia. Spokane has three games this week, starting with a big home game with Vancouver on Wednesday. The Chiefs will travel to first-place Everett on Friday and then head home for another huge game with Tri-City on Saturday. 

I'll have the call on 103.5 FM the Game and 1510 AM KGA for all three games with the pre-game shows at 6:30 pm and the puck drops at 7:05 pm. 

It's another crucial week for the Chiefs, so we hope to see you at the rink!

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