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Chiefs finally end losing streak

Spokane ends 9 game losing skein with win over Tri City
Credit: Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — The past 6 weeks of the season have been anything but satisfactory for the Chiefs as the club has endured a pair of losing streaks that has sunk the team to the bottom of the U.S. Division standings and the Western Conference of the Western Hockey League. After back to back losses to Prince George at home in regulation last weekend, the Chiefs showed some life with a great come from behind effort from a 4-0 deficit at first place Portland in a shootout loss last Sunday. The tough part though was despite the great offensive output in a 5 goal second period, the Chiefs still suffered an 8-7 shootout defeat that extended their season high losing streak to 9 straight games. Spokane had fallen 15 points back of the division leading Winterhawks as the Chiefs hoped to get back on the winning side of the ledger as they hosted Seattle and Tri City from the U.S. Division on Friday and Saturday.

The Chiefs had struggled big time on home ice to start the 2022-23 campaign, having gone a mediocre 1-7 on their home ice. Their only win had been over Medicine Hat in mid-October, which had snapped a 3 game home losing streak. Since that win though, the Chiefs had dropped those 9 straight, including 4 at the Spokane Arena. Spokane was still without head coach Ryan Smith and forward Berkly Catton, who were at the Under 17 tournament in Canada. Spokane had also made a major trade during the week, dealing starting goalie Mason Beaupit to the Winnipeg Ice for goalie Dawson Cowan and three draft picks. The trade of Beaupit meant backup Cooper Michaluk would assume the top spot in between the pipes going forward the rest of the season.

To snap their losing streak, the Chiefs would be challenged by the second place club in the U.S. Division in the Seattle Thunderbirds. Spokane had played in Seattle during the 9 game losing streak, dropping a 8-3 decision on October 22nd. In that game, Spokane had scored 3 straight goals early in the second period to take a 3-2 lead, only to see the Thunderbirds storm back and score 6 unanswered goals on their way to a decisive victory. Spokane had fallen behind 2-0 in the first in that defeat and were hoping to start quicker in the re-match at the Arena. Michaluk would get the start as he hoped to garner his and the Chiefs fourth victory of the season.

Unfortunately for Spokane, the good start they hoped to get was quickly dashed by Seattle in the opening 5 minutes as the Thunderbirds scored 3 goals to jump out to a 3-0 lead. The Chiefs settled down from there in the first, but the damage was done as Seattle would take their 3 goal lead into the second period. The Thunderbirds expanded their margin with a goal midway through the middle period to go ahead 4-0. Spokane would break through on a Cade Hayes late in the frame to move within 4-1. The Thunderbirds came right back and scored less than a minute later to go up 5-1 and then added a goal in the final minute of the period to take a commanding 6-1 lead into the third.

The Chiefs got off to a good start in the third when Chase Bertholet broke loose and scored on a breakaway 4:02 into the period to bring Spokane within 6-2. That would prove to be the last highlight of the night though, as Seattle scored a late power play goal to seal a 7-2 victory. The Chiefs played the Thunderbirds even in the third and despite the lopsided loss, Spokane was hoping to use the momentum of that third period the next night when they hosted the arch rival Tri City Americans. Tri City came in off a 4-3 loss at home to Everett the night before and the Americans sat 7 points back of the Ams in the division standings entering Saturday's contest.

Once again, the Chiefs started slow in a game, as the Americans came right out and scored on their first power play of the game 2:44 into the first period to take a 1-0 lead. It looked like Spokane's penalty kill was in for another long night as the Chiefs took 4 penalties in the first. The PK stepped up though and turned away the next 3 Americans power play chances to keep it a one goal game. Spokane would get 2 power play opportunities and would convert their second one as the Chiefs drew even with just 8 seconds left in the first when Cade Hayes scored for the second straight game to make it 1-1 heading into the second period.

The goal would serve as a launch pad for the Chiefs offensively in the second as Spokane would score on their first power play chance of the period as Hayes made a perfect feed to a cutting Ty Cheveldayoff heading to the net and Cheveldayoff's team leading 8th goal of the year put the Chiefs up 2-1. Carter Streek, who has started to heat up after a slow start, put home his third goal in his last 4 games, with a highlight reel goal as he executed the "Michigan" with the lifting of the puck onto his stick from behind the net and snapping over the goalie into the net at 15:18 to put Spokane up by two. It was the Chiefs first multi goal lead since their last win over Medicine Hat in mid October. Chase Bertholet then scored a goal in his second straight game and extended his points streak to 5 straight with his 7th of the year at 17:37 to put Spokane up 4-1. Tomasso DeLuca then capped a 4 goal second with his 3rd of the year in the final minute and a half of the period as the Chiefs assumed a commanding 5-1 lead heading to the third.

Spokane had not carried a 4 goal lead to the third since the season opener in Victoria back in September. It just felt odd the Chiefs actually had a somewhat comfortable lead going into the third. Then the worry began for me as to how the team would react to having a nice lead. Those worries would disappear 2:38 into the period when Hayes would score his second of the game, and cap a career high 4 point night, giving Spokane a 6-1 lead. Mac Gross then got into the scoring column with his first goal since the opening weekend sweep at Victoria with a goal just over 2 minutes later to cap the Chiefs scoring at 7-1. Tri City would score on the power play midway through the period and add another tally with just 1:01 remaining to close out the scoring as Spokane snapped their 9 game streak with a 7-3 victory. The Chiefs scored 7 unanswered goals in the game, and put up 43 shots while going 2 for 7 on the power play and even more impressively, 7 for 9 on the penalty kill against the league's second ranked power play unit in Tri City.

The win drew the Chiefs within 5 points of Tri in the U.S. Division standings and pulled Spokane even with Victoria in the conference standings, 4 points back of Kelowna for the final playoff spot. It's amazing how one win can wash away 9 straight losses and the month of misery that went with it. The Chiefs can now focus their attention on making a move up the standings as they travel to Kelowna to face the Rockets on Friday at 7 pm. Spokane will then welcome the Calgary Hitmen to the Arena the following night on Saturday at 7:05 pm. Once again, it's a challenging weekend for the Chiefs, but it could prove to be a huge weekend for the team moving forward as Spokane could make some much needed headway in the conference playoff race. I'll have the call on 103.5 the game with the pre-game shows at 6:30 pm on Friday and Saturday. Let's hope the Chiefs team from Saturday's game with Tri City is the one that shows up this weekend. Let's hope so and we hope to see you at the rink!

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