On The Road with Mike Boyle
Throughout the season, Chiefs play-by-play radio broadcaster Mike Boyle will share his thoughts with his blog, On The Road with Mike Boyle. Check back frequently throughout each season as Mike takes in every second of Chiefs hockey, including behind-the-scenes perspective you can’t find anywhere else.
February 18th, 2018 at Seattle
After losing at home to division leading Everett, the Chiefs rebounded with 2 big home wins over Kamloops and Tri City to open a 3 point lead over the Americans for third place in the U.S. Division. After the three game home stand, the team headed back on the road for the first time since going an impressive 5-0-2 on their 7 game road trip going from late January to early February. Spokane faced a tough test in their first game away from the Spokane Arena as they headed to Seattle to face a Thunderbirds team they had lost to in their previous two trips to the ShoWare Center in Kent. Seattle had also won two in a row over Spokane to take a 3-2 series lead and since the head to head match up is the first tie break in playoff seeding, Sunday’s game was going to be a key one for the Chiefs.
A good start is always key to a road win and Spokane managed to do so when Hudson Elynuik scored on a breakaway short handed 16:40 into the first period to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Spokane came right back 1:11 later and made it 2-0 when Eli Zummack found Nolan Reid on the rush for Reid’s first goal since December 15th. The Chiefs carried that lead into the second period and would extend it when Kailer Yamamoto scored on the power play on a perfect cross ice pass from Jaret Anderson-Dolan at 17:01 to make it 3-0 Spokane. Seattle cut the margin to 3-1 on an Austin Strand goal from the right point just a minute later as the game headed to the third.
Spokane had lost a two goal lead heading into the third in their contest two visits before in Seattle, but history would not repeat itself on this night. On a 4 on 4 early in the third, Yamamoto found Anderson-Dolan on a 2 on 1 rush just 1:02 into the period for Anderson-Dolan’s team leading 34th goal of the season to give the Chiefs a 4-1 lead. Yamamoto would cap the scoring on the night with his second of the game at 10:19 to wrap up a 5-1 victory.
The Chiefs out shot Seattle 36-26 as Spokane picked up their first win in Kent this season and evened the season series at 3-3. With Vancouver’s loss earlier in the night, Spokane moved past Vancouver for 5th place in the West and extended their lead to 5 points over Tri City and 6 over Seattle in the division. Spokane now returns home to play 3 straight, starting with division leading Everett on Tuesday. The chances of the Chiefs catching the Silvertips is thin, but Spokane is now just 3 points behind second place Portland, so the team has a shot of moving up if they continue to win 10 of their next 13 heading into their season finale a month from now at Portland. The team seems to be finding their game as the season winds down and if Spokane take care of business at home this week, their next road trip may be as successful as their last one.
February 10th, 2018 at Tri City
Finally, it was here. The final game of a 7 game road swing, with a couple thousand miles on the bus, and several hotel stays later, the Chiefs were about to head home as they finished their longest road trip of the year in the Tri Cities. Spokane was coming off as big a road win as they’ve had this season, after rallying for a 2-1 overtime win over division leading Everett the night before. Let’s just say the bus trip from Everett to Kennewick flew by as the team arrived after 2 in the morning. I couldn’t fall asleep until around 5 as I ended up doing my game prep and watching a movie most of the early morning.
The team was a lot smarter than I was and got a good night’s sleep in as they got ready to face an Americans team that was coming off a 3-1 loss at Portland the night before. The Chiefs now had a one point lead over the Ams and Seattle for third in the division, and with 5 of the previous 7 games with Tri City going to overtime, I was expecting another hard fought close game between the two rivals. Dawson Weatherill got his third straight start in net, coming off two very good outings in giving up just one goal a game.
The Chiefs got off to a good start Saturday as well, as Kailer Yamamoto won a puck battle in behind the Tri City net. Yamamoto found Ethan McIndoe, who slipped a pass to an open Jaret Anderson-Dolan in the low left circle. Anderson-Dolan lifted a shot over Tri City goalie Beck Warm and under the bar for his 30th of the season 6:01 into the game to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. That lead held until late in the first when the Americans got a 5 on 3 power play on concurring penalties from the Chiefs Zach Fischer and Nolan Reid. Tri’s Michael Rasmussen deflected a Dylan Coghlin shot from the right point in at 15:19 to tie the game at one. Then off a 4 on 4, the Ams Jordan Topping stripped the Chiefs Ty Smith of the puck behind the Spokane net and hit an open Morgan Geekie net front. Geekie roofed the shot home at 18:12 to give Tri City a 2-1 lead after one.
Spokane was out shot 12-3 in the first despite getting three power plays in the period. I guess the Chiefs had to feel fortunate to be down by just one. The team would turn it around in the second as they would out shoot Tri City 12-5. After failing on 3 power plays in the first, the Chiefs would score on back to back man advantage chances in the second. Off of a 5 on 3, Ty Smith’s slap shot from the top of the circles at 7:29 would tie the game at two. Just 24 seconds later, Kailer Yamamoto got his third straight assist, finding an open Ethan McIndoe net front as his power play tally gave Spokane a lead they would never lose at 3-2.
Tri City would get a power play chance early in the third period, but the Chiefs penalty kill would kill off the opportunity. Filip Kral, who was in the penalty box, got the puck at center ice and found Yamamoto on the rush. Yamamoto dropped a perfect pass to Anderson-Dolan who was trailing the play and he ripped home his second goal of the night to the far post to give Spokane a 4-2 lead at 8:48 of the third. Tri City answered right back, scoring on a shot from the point just 44 seconds later to cut the margin to 4-3. I was having flashbacks of the last game the Chiefs had in Tri, blowing a 4-1 second period lead and a 4-3 margin late in the third on the way to a 5-4 overtime defeat two weeks earlier.
This time around though, Spokane was determined to not let history repeat itself. Anderson-Dolan got the puck up the left wing, and managed to keep his speed into the Tri City end. He fed a perfect pass to a cutting Yamamoto on the far side of the net and Yamamoto put home his 10th goal since the World Juniors at 12:46 to give the Chiefs a 5-3 lead and take the air out of the building. The Americans would pull Warm from net in the final 2.5 minutes, but Spokane would keep Tri off the board and would seal the game when Anderson-Dolan capped a hat trick with an empty netter in the final minute to cap off a 6-3 victory. It was the Chiefs first win in regulation against Tri City this year as Spokane evened the season series at 4-4. That is huge, as the head to head match up is the first tie break.
The victory also put the Chiefs up 3 points on both Tri City and Seattle, who lost tonight to Portland, for third place in the division. Spokane is still 7 back of Portland and 9 behind Everett in the U.S., but the Chiefs are still within striking distance. More impressively, the team went 5-0-2 on the road trip, garnering 12 of a possible 14 points. Spokane has now won 4 in a row, matching their longest win streak of the year that happened in late January. Take away the two overtime losses in games the Chiefs could have easily won, and Spokane would be sitting on a 10 game win streak right now. As it is, winning 8 of 10 this time of the season is big, and the team hopes to keep it going as they head home to host Everett tomorrow at the Spokane Arena. I’m hoping there’s a good crowd to boost the boys…because they deserve it. It’s a big game against the top team in the division, and if it’s anything like Friday’s game, it will be a doozy. I just hope the Chiefs keep things rolling. It’s a lot more fun!
February 9th, 2018 at Everett
The end of the road trip was now in sight for the Chiefs as Spokane had back to back games at Everett and Tri City over the weekend before finally heading home for the first time in 3 weeks. The Chiefs had started the week with a huge win at Kamloops to open up a 9 point lead on the Blazers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Spokane was now tied with Seattle for 4th in the U.S. Division and were just 1 point back of Tri City for 3rd. The Chiefs were 10 back of first place Everett, but with 2 games with the Silvertips looming over the weekend, a pair of regulation wins would vault Spokane back in the thick of the U.S. Division.
After Wednesday’s win in Kamloops, the Chiefs left the snow of Canada for the rain of Western Washington. The team got to spend a relaxing off day in Everett on Thursday, capped by a fantastic Chinese meal for dinner. I know I rolled myself out of the restaurant. Game day would see the team go through a light morning skate before getting ready for their 7th meeting with the Silvertips this season. Spokane had lost the last two match ups, both in the second half of the season, after splitting the first 4 meetings in the first half of the year. The Chiefs had not had much luck in Everett either, losing all 3 previous games. None was tougher than the last encounter, when the Chiefs blew a 5-3 lead in the third to fall 6-5 in overtime on January 28th.
Spokane hoped to reverse that result this time around, but for the second straight game, the Chiefs gave up a goal midway through the first to fall behind 1-0. The Tips Riley Sutter came down the right wing and delivered a perfect pass to a streaking Garrett Pilon down the left side. Pilon tipped the feed past goalie Dawson Weatherill at 10:17 to give Everett the early lead. Spokane started the game out shooting the Silvertips 12-2, but Everett would get two power play chances later in the first to cut the margin to 13-10 Spokane after one. The Chiefs penalty kill came up big though, as they went 2-2 in the first on the way to a 4-4 performance on the night.
The second period was Spokane’s roughest of the night. Everett put the Chiefs back on their heels defensively at several points, and ended up out shooting Spokane 17-7 in the second. Weatherill came up with some huuugee saves though, as he played probably his best period of the season to keep it a 1-0 game after two. The Chiefs re-gained their footing in the third and started to get some offensive momentum back. Spokane still trailed by one though, when the team pulled Weatherill and put on an extra skater with less than 2.5 minutes left in the game. The move paid off, as Hudson Elynuik got the puck in the right circle, fed Jaret Anderson-Dolan between the circles and Anderson-Dolan snapped home his team leading 29th goal of the season at 18:11 to tie the game at one.
It was the biggest goal of the season for Spokane thus far this season. It was a bit of sweet revenge too after giving up a game tying goal with just 28 seconds left the last time these two met in Everett. The Chiefs needed to finish the job in overtime to have any satisfaction though. Just past the midway point of the 5 minute OT, Ty Smith’s shot went wide off the end wall and the puck bounced out toward the front of the Everett net. Kailer Yamamoto, who just had his 11 game points scoring streak snapped Wednesday, got the rolling puck on his back hand and somehow pushed the puck off the pad of Everett goalie Carter Hart and inside the left post at 2:58 of overtime to give the Chiefs a huge win and a big 2 points in the standings.
The win was the Chiefs 6th in 9 overtime games this season, pushed Spokane past both Seattle and Tri City in the American Division. The team now has 63 points, one up on both the Thunderbirds and Americans. Spokane now has 29 wins as well, 2 ahead of both teams in a possible tie break scenario. The head to head is the first tie break, and Spokane has a chance to even the series with Tri City with a win in Kennewick tomorrow night. The Americans lost tonight in Portland, so you know they’ll be more than ready for the meeting with their chief rivals. The Chiefs have given up just 2 goals in their last 2 games, so hopefully there will be more of the same kind of defensive work and goaltending tomorrow at Tri.
February 7th, 2018 at Kamloops
Despite the fact the Chiefs have not played a home game since January 23rd, the current 7 game road trip hasn’t felt like a grueling ordeal. In fact, Spokane has spent more time at home as they have on the road due to the scheduling, and believe me, you won’t hear me or anyone else on the team complaining about that. Spokane has played well thus far on the journey as well, going 2-0-2 thus far, garnering 6 of a possible 8 points. The Chiefs have needed to play that well too, as despite having the second best record in the conference in the past 2 weeks, Spokane was sitting in 5th in the U.S. Division. The team was only 2 points behind 4th place Seattle and 3 back of third place Tri City though, so a good finish to the road trip would vault the Chiefs up the standings quickly.
The club departed Tuesday for Kamloops to take on a Blazers squad that was 7 points back of Spokane for the final playoffs spot in the West. The Chiefs had not fared well against the Blazers in their first two meetings, losing a pair of one goal games, including a 2-1 decision in Kamloops in the last match up in Kamloops January 9th. Spokane out shot the Blazers 48-28 in the contest, but could only manage a third period goal from Riley Woods in the loss. Spokane was determined to get their first win in the series as they headed North on Tuesday. The trip was relatively uneventful until snow started to fall outside Kamloops. The wet stuff continued into the next morning on game day before disappearing by lunch time.
The game marked the debut for forward Cordel Larson, who was called up to help out up front with the injuries to forwards Eli Zummack and Riley McKay. Jeff Faith, who can play both ways, was also out and did not make the trip. Things didn’t start well for Spokane as the Blazers Brodi Stuart scored on a shot below the Chiefs goal line midway through the first to give Kamloops a 1-0 lead after one. It was a goal I’m sure goalie Dawson Weatherill would like to have back, but the Chiefs netminder would recover nicely and shut down the Blazers the rest of the way.
The Chiefs would get their offense going midway through the second. Cedric Chenier got the puck up the left wing on a rush and dropped a perfect pass to a trailing Luke Toporowski. The rookie carried the puck between the circles and snapped home his 5th goal in 7 games to tie the game at one. Kamloops then got an opportunity to take the lead on a power play late in the second, but it was the Chiefs that took advantage. Hudson Elynuik picked up a loose puck in the Chiefs zone and lifted a pass ahead to a streaking Riley Woods, who went on a breakaway. Woods would slip a back hand past goalie Dylan Ferguson for a short handed goal with less than 2 minutes left in the period to give Spokane a 2-1 lead after two.
In the third, Weatherill turned away all 8 Blazer shots as the team locked down defensively, shutting down the one power play chance for Kamloops in the period. Spokane would cap the scoring when Ethan McIndoe got a Jaret Anderson-Dolan pass and scored into an empty net in the final minute to cap a 3-1 victory. The Chiefs out shot Kamloops 32-22 in the contest and went a perfect 3-3 on the penalty kill as the Chiefs picked up their first win over the Blazers this season.
The win put Spokane 9 points up on Kamloops in the race for the final playoff spot in the West and also pulled the Chiefs into a 4th place tie with Seattle in the U.S. Division. Spokane is now just a point back of 3rd place Tri City and trail first place Everett by 10 with 20 games remaining in the season. The Chiefs now have a chance to make a move up the standings as they will head to Everett and Tri City to wrap up the road trip this weekend. The last time Spokane did this road swing over a week ago, the Chiefs lost a pair of back to back overtime contests; losing third period leads in both. The team will get an off day in Everett Thursday to rest up before a busy…and important weekend. Let’s hope the team breaks through in the victory column against the two U.S. Division rivals.
February 2nd, 2018 at Kootenay
The Chiefs had most of the past week off, giving them plenty of time to reflect upon their back to back overtime losses on the road at Tri City and Everett the previous weekend. Granted, Spokane did pick up two points from those games, but when you give up leads in the final minute of both games, and lose both in the overtime, not only did the Chiefs miss out on the two extra points…but also gave the Americans and Silvertips two points apiece that could figure big in the standings as the season winds down. Spokane couldn’t dwell on what might have been though, as their 7 game road trip continued Friday in Cranbrook, B.C. against the Kootenay Ice.
Kootenay was in third in the Central Division, and had played the Chiefs tough in their first 3 meetings this season. Spokane had won 2 of the 3, but every game was a one goal affair. The Ice alwaysss play the Chiefs tough, so there was no reason to expect anything different come Friday. The weather heading up North to Cranbrook was wet. It rained, then came a rain/snow mix, then light snow, then more rain as the team headed into Canada. Once into British Columbia though, the sun appeared through the clouds, and amazingly enough some blue sky came out! Maybe it was a forecast for the Chiefs night.
Things didn’t start very well in the game though, as the Ice took a Chiefs turnover at the Kootenay blue line and Peyton Krebs skated past the Spokane defense and snapped a shot short side top corner past Chiefs goalie Dawson Weatherill to give the Ice a 1-0 lead just 1:41 into the game. Spokane bounced right back though as Kailer Yamamoto got the puck on the rush during a 4 on 4. Yamamoto found Ty Smith trailing the play, and Smith took the puck between the circles and wristed home his 8th of the season at 3:14 to tie the game at one. Kootenay would come right back and score on their first power play on a Martin Bodak shot from the point that beat a screened Weatherill at 10:24 to make it a 2-1 game. The Chiefs then got their first..and only..power play of the first a couple minutes later. Spokane failed to score, but Yamamoto got the puck net front at the end of the man advantage, and Jake McGrew muscled the puck past former Chief goalie Matt Berlin at 14:30 to tie the game at two after the first.
The Chiefs then got their first lead of the game on their first power play of the second, as Jaret Anderson-Dolan fed an open Yamamoto on the right wing for his 10th goal of the year at 11:55 to give Spokane a 3-2 advantage. Kootenay would come back though and tie the game as Colton Kroker’s shot from the left side was saved by Weatherill, but the Chiefs netminder couldn’t secure the puck and Colton Veloso got enough of the puck to put it in the net at 16:11 to tie the game at three after two. Spokane out shot Kootenay 26-14 through two, yet found themselves in a tie game heading to the third. Visions of Sunday’s Everett game were going through my head as I tried to reason that the Chiefs could nottt lose a third straight game in overtime.
Turns out I had no reason to worry. Spokane’s power play would score on their first attempt in the third, as Anderson-Dolan blistered a shot from the left wing to the far post at 3:55 to give the Chiefs a lead they’d never lose at 4-3. Spokane would hold Kootenay to just 3 shots in the third, and would wrap up the game when Yamamoto capped a career best 5 point night when he stole the puck behind the Kootenay net while it was empty and fed Luke Toporowski for his 6th goal of the year with just over a minute left to seal a 5-3 victory. Yamamoto now has an 11 game points scoring streak and Toporowski has scored goals in 4 of his last 6 games. Anderson-Dolan finished with a goal and 3 assists, matching a career high 4 point evening, and Smith had a goal and 2 assists.
The win was the third in 4 meetings with Kootenay, and was the first win by more than a goal. The Chiefs have now won 5 of 7, and have gone 2-0-2 in the first 4 games of their season long 7 game road trip. Spokane moved past idle Seattle into 4th in the division, but remain 2 back of third place Tri City, who beat Portland at home. The team now will look forward to 3 games on the road next week, beginning at Kamloops Wednesday. There’s a lot to feel good about for this team right now, and let’s hope the Chiefs keep up their winning ways next week.
January 28th, 2018 at Everett
I guess the good news for the Chiefs after the gut wrenching loss at Tri City the night before was the team didn’t have very long to stew about it, as Spokane hopped on the bus for a 3.5 hour trip to Everett to take on the U.S. Division leading Silvertips the next afternoon. Everett wasn’t real thrilled either, after seeing their 8 game win streak snapped Friday at Seattle in a shootout. The Chiefs found themselves 9 points back of Everett in the division, but just two back of Seattle for third heading into Sunday’s meeting.
Spokane arrived in Everett about 2 am Sunday, and got a chance to sleep in before a meeting in the morning and a brunch close to Noon. It was another cloudy day with a slight misty rain falling as the team was able to walk to the rink from the downtown hotel location. The Chiefs shifted up some lines up front, as Zach Fischer moved to a line with Luke Toporowski and Cedric Chenier. Jake McGrew was paired with Hudson Elynuik and Riley Woods, and Milos Frafrak moved to center with Riley McKay and Luke Gallagher. The Chiefs would need all the offense they could get as they faced the top goalie in the league in Carter Hart, who had a WHL best goals against of 1.36 entering Sunday’s game.
The Chiefs got off to the good start they needed as they would convert their first power play against the league’s top penalty killing unit. Kailer Yamamoto’s shot from the right wing was tipped between the circles by Jake McGrew past Hart 10:15 into the game to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. Spokane let the Silvertips back in after turning the puck over at their blue line, leading to a rebound goal from Matt Fonteyne at 15:08 to tie the game at one. Back came the Chiefs though as Riley McKay fed Luke Toporowski on the right wing. Topper snapped a shot from the low right circle through the pads of Hart at 17:22 to give Spokane a 2-1 lead after one. It was Toporowski’s 3rd goal in 5 games and gave the Chiefs a big boost heading into the second.
Everett would re-tie the game though early in the second, as Spencer Gerth would tip a shot from the blue line just 2:52 in to make it a 2-2 contest. The Chiefs answered right back, as Yamamoto stripped the puck off a Silvertip at the goal line and fed an open Jaret Anderson-Dolan on the right wing. A.D. lifted a shot over Hart at 5:58 to give the lead back to Spokane at 3-2. Everett would re-tie the game on a Wyatt Wylie slap shot from the blue line with the Tips on the power play midway through the period to make it 3-3 after two. Of all the goals given up by Chiefs goalie Dawson Weatherill, it was this goal I would venture to bet he would want back as he had a clear view but missed the puck through his pads.
With a 3-3 game heading to the third, the Chiefs would regain the advantage on the power play. Yamamoto would fire a shot from the right wing that beat Hart at 2:16 of the period to give Spokane a 4-3 lead. That goal marked the most surrendered by Hart in a game this season, and things would look even better 2:22 later when Anderson-Dolan scored his second of the night on a Yamamoto pass from the right wall to give the Chiefs a 5-3 advantage. But just as things looked good for Spokane, Everett’s Wylie would throw another shot past Weatherill from the blue line just 30 seconds later to cut the lead to 5-4.
Spokane was able to re-group and keep Everett from any good scoring chances for most of the rest of the period. Hart would head to the bench and the Silvertips brought out the extra skater in the final minute and a half. Spokane was able to clear the puck a couple of times, but Everett got the puck back in with about 45 seconds left and kept the pressure on. After losing a couple puck battles, the puck went out net front to an open Connor Dewar, who got in between 2 Chiefs defenders and he snapped home a goal with just 23.2 seconds left to tie the game at 5.
It was another crushing end to regulation for the second straight night as the Chiefs tried to re-gather in overtime. Kailer Yamamoto got off a quality chance in overtime, but Hart made a nice glove save. Off the face-off, the Silvertips would win the puck up the left wing and break out on a 2 on 1 as the Chiefs failed to get back. Wylie led the rush up the right wing, and Weatherill had to go play him, but Dewar got behind the Chiefs and tapped the puck into the open net just 1:10 into overtime to give Everett a come from behind 6-5 victory.
To score 5 goals on Hart, and go 2 for 3 on the power play, and stilll lose is a tough thing to swallow. The fact of the matter is, until the Chiefs stop making poor decisions with the puck, get better defensive zone coverage, and more consistent goaltending, Spokane is going to be fighting for the wild card playoff spots rather than the top 3 in the division. The Chiefs made so many good plays over the last 2 nights in Tri City and here in Everett, but would follow them up with head shaking performances. Let’s hope this club figures it out soon, as just 22 games remain in the season after tonight. This is the time of year when you start to hit another gear, and the Chiefs will hope to start that up when they head to Cranbrook, B.C. Friday when they face Kootenay in game 4 of this 7 game roadie.
January 27th, 2018 at Tri City
After Wednesday night’s shut out win at Vancouver, the Chiefs had won a season high 4 straight games as they headed back on the road to Tri City on Saturday. The season series is usually very hard fought with tight games between the two, and this year was no exception. The two clubs had split the first 6 games of the 12 game regular season series, with Spokane winning all three of their games in overtime, including the last match-up a week ago at the Spokane Arena when Kailer Yamamoto scored 47 seconds into OT to give the Chiefs a 5-4 victory. Spokane entered Saturday’s meeting two points up on the Americans for 4th place in the U.S. Division, although the Ams had two games in hand.
Spokane was still without Eli Zummack, who stayed home with his injury suffered two weeks previously. Goalie Dawson Weatherill, who got his 2nd shut out of the year in his last start, was back in goal Saturday. The Chiefs would start things well as Jaret Anderson-Dolan took a Filip Kral pass up the left wing and snapped home his team leading 25th goal of the year just 5:37 into the game to make it 1-0 Spokane. That lead held through one as each team put up 8 shots.
The second period would be an offensive outburst as each team scored 3 goals. Spokane got it started when Ethan McIndoe one timed a Kailer Yamamoto pass from the right circle for his 15th of the year just 1:15 into the second to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead. The assist extended Yamamoto’s points scoring streak to 9 straight. Tri City would get one power play in the game…and they would convert it. Dylan Coglan scored on a weak side cross ice pass from Michael Rasmussen at 2:43 to cut the Chiefs lead to 2-1. Back would come Spokane though, as Ty Smith, just back from the Top Prospects game, scored his 7th of the year on a shot from between the circles from Anderson-Dolan at 3:46 to put the Chiefs back up by 2 at 3-1. Spokane then made it 4-1 at 4:39 when Riley Woods hit Zach Fischer on a perfect pass net front, and Fischer tipped home his 22nd of the season to put the Chiefs in command at that point.
Tri City would come roaring back though as Michael Rasmussen tipped home a pass net front off the rush midway through the second to make it 4-2 Spokane. The Americans then cut the margin to 4-3 after two when Riley Sawchuk scored on an odd man rush to give Tri City momentum heading into the third. The Chiefs had chances to extend the lead, by hit 2 posts and a crossbar in the second and third periods to keep it a one goal game. Tri City had looked to tie the contest on a Jordan Topping goal just over 12 minutes into the third, but the goal was waved off when the net was knocked loose before the puck crossed the goal line. It appeared as if a Chiefs player had jarred the net loose, and if purposely done, it’s a penalty. It wasn’t deemed to be so by the referees; and the replay showed the net was dislodged before it crossed the line. It didn’t appear that way on the initial view of the play, but replay proved otherwise.
The Chiefs lead held up and it looked like Spokane would escape when Tri City pulled their goalie in the final minute and a half. Spokane had the puck and a chance to easily clear it out of their own zone, but failed to do so as Tri City intercepted at the blue line. This costly turnover and mistake would be deadly to the Chiefs. Coglan’s shot from the right blue line was tipped by Rasmussen into the net with just 1 minute left to give Tri City a 4-4 tie heading into overtime. Spokane had a chance to win it just under a minute into OT when Zach Fischer went on a breakaway. Tri City goalie Patrick Dea saved the Ams with a denial on the shot, and the Americans turned back up ice. Jordan Topping fed Coglan at the top of the circles and he snapped home his second of the game just 1:14 into OT to give Tri a come from behind 5-4 win.
Spokane had won three straight in OT, including just the week previous in Spokane, so I guess the odds of that continuing were going to be slim. The Chiefs made enough defensive mistakes after getting ahead 4-1 to last a lifetime. The attributes that had got Spokane the lead; keeping the game simple, taking care of the puck, and putting pressure in Tri City’s defensive zone…all went away for spells that allowed the Americans back into the game. It’s almost as if the team gets a multi-goal lead, they forget what got them there and go off and end up making critical mistakes that cost them leads…and games. It was a tough lesson learned, so it will be interesting to see where the team goes forward from here.
The Chiefs now have little time to dwell on things, as they head on to the bus for Everett for a Sunday afternoon tilt with the division leaders. Everett just had their 8 game win streak snapped tonight with a shootout loss in Seattle, so they won’t be in a good mood either. It should be an interesting meeting as the Chiefs are 9 back of the Silvertips in the division, and still have 5 head to head meetings heading into Sunday. Spokane needs every point they can get, and a win can get them heading toward the top of the division. Conversely, a loss could really set back the Chiefs, so let’s hope the team comes out with some desperation…and some smarts..to their game on Sunday.
January 24th, 2018 at Vancouver
It had been 2 weeks since the Chiefs had boarded the bus for a road trip as the team had settled into the Spokane Arena for a 5 game home stand. Home ice had proven to be very friendly for the team as Spokane went 4-1 in front of the home folks, winning the last three in a row. The home stand was capped with a 4-2 victory over the #4 team in the CHL, Swift Current, as the Chiefs wrapped up their series with the Eastern Division going a perfect 6-0. In fact, Spokane has been an impressive 11-2-1 vs. the Eastern Conference this year, better than any other team from the U.S. Division. Unfortunately, the Chiefs have been unable to match that success in the Western Conference, and specifically in their own division, going just 9-13-0-1 against their U.S. counterparts.
On the other hand, the Chiefs were 5-4-0-1 against the B.C. Division, as the team opened a season long 7 game road trip against the Vancouver Giants of the B.C. the night after the Swift Current game. The road trip over to Vancouver is about 7 hours, and it was every bit of that on Tuesday night as the team bus battled the snow on Snoqualmie Pass, where almost 2 feet of snow fell during the day and night. The team would finally arrive at the rink to drop off gear around 5:30 am, and make it to the hotel about 6 am. Some of the guys got breakfast around 10, but I slept in knowing the team was going to turn right back around and drive home after Wednesday’s game. Pre-game and breakfast were both at a Denny’s attached to the team hotel, and I was a bit surprised how good the food was. I actually went back for seconds…which neverrr happens. It rained the entireee time we were in Langley, which is about an hour east of downtown Vancouver, so relaxing in the hotel was realllyyy easy to do.
The Chiefs were still without Ty Smith, who was at the Top Prospects game, and Eli Zummack was still out with injury. Dawson Weatherill got his second straight start after a solid 28 save performance in the win over Swift Current. The Chiefs would help him out quickly on Wednesday as Zach Fischer scored on a wrap around just 1:03 into the game to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. Fischer deked going to his back hand side behind the net, then came to his forehand and banked the puck off Vancouver goalie David Tendeck’s right leg pad to score his 21st of the season. That goal held up in the first, as Weatherill turned aside 15 Vancouver shots after the Giants got 3 power play chances in the period.
Spokane would decide the game in the second. Kailer Yamamoto got things started by picking up a loose puck and roofing his 7th of the year on a shot net front just 59 seconds into the period to make it 2-0 Chiefs. Vancouver then went on the power play to try to cut the lead in half, but Hudson Elynuik hit Yamamoto on a rush in the attack zone, and Yamamoto buried the chance from the weak side 3:10 into the period to give Spokane a 3-0 advantage. It was the goal that really decided this contest, as the Chiefs kept up the pressure the rest of the period. Spokane would cap a three goal second as Milos Fafrak hit an open Luke Toporowski by the left post and Topper went far side for his 4th of the year to give the Chiefs a 4-0 lead after two. Spokane put up 18 shots in the period and shut down another 3 Vancouver power play chances on the way to a perfect 6-6 on the penalty kill on the evening.
The Chiefs put the game away early in the third when Elynuik scored with a Riley Woods pass going off his skate on the left wing outside the crease to wrap up a 5-0 victory. Weatherill picked up his 2nd shut out of the year with a 31 save performance as the team secured its’ season high 4th win in a row. Even more impressively, the Chiefs have now won 10 straight vs. Vancouver, going back to their last loss September 30, 2012 at the old PNE Coliseum. With the rest of the division off, the Chiefs gained two points on the U.S., moving past Tri City into 4th place with 55 points; just one back of 3rd place Seattle and 7 behind first place Everett.
Now the team gets a couple days off after another all night ride on the bus, and will have back to back games at Tri City and Everett on Saturday and Sunday. In other words, another pair of hugeee games in the division that will help the team move up…or back…in the U.S. standings. Let’s hope the Chiefs continue to play over the weekend like they have the past 2 weeks and continue to move up the standings.
January 10th, 2018 at Kelowna
After back to back one goal performances in Seattle and Kamloops, the Chiefs looked to get their offensive game going as they finished a 3 game road trip at Kelowna on Wednesday. Spokane was still without goalie Dawson Weatherill as back up Donovan Buskey picked up his second straight start. Spokane battled through a snow storm between Kamloops and Kelowna on Tuesday night, but the team was able to get into Kelowna at a somewhat decent hour of 1 am.
Wednesday marked the trade deadline day in the WHL, and the Chiefs were quiet as they only acquisition they had made was a few days before when they picked up goalie Bailey Brkin from Kootenay. I’m sure Spokane looked at several offers, but in the end, there wasn’t a trade attractive enough for the team to deal one of their up and coming 17 year olds for a proven 19 year old that would only be with Spokane for the last half of this season. Portland, Everett, Tri City and Seattle all made several trades…the first three teams with major deals…but they also ended up giving up a lot in the end too. It will be interesting to see how the deals pan out for everyone in the division.
The sun actually came out in Kelowna, the first time we’ve seen the sun since leaving for Seattle last Saturday. It was a nice change to the gloomy skies the team has seen on this road trip. Spokane saw a 2 goal first from Kamloops turn into a 2-1 loss the night before, so the Chiefs were hoping a better start tonight. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. The puck drifted off Ty Smith’s stick right to Kelowna’s Jack Cowell, who fed Kyle Topping net front for an easy goal and just over 5 minutes in, the Chiefs were down 1-0. It became a 2-0 Rockets lead when a shot from the right blue line beat a screened Buskey at 14:57. Things were not looking good at this point.
The Chiefs would start their comeback late in the first. Matt Leduc’s shot from the left point was saved, but Jeff Faith pounced on the rebound to score his 4th of the season at 18:27 to bring Spokane within 2-1 at the end of one. Spokane would come out firing in the second. Tyson Helgesen one timed a rebound off a Zach Fischer shot from the left point and scored his 6th of the year just 19 seconds into the period to tie the game at two. The Chiefs then converted their second power play of the night when Jake McGrew fed an open Jaret Anderson-Dolan on the left wing, and A.D. scored his team leading 23rd of the season at 2:11 to give Spokane a 3-2 lead. Now things were looking good for the Chiefs.
Just as quickly though, things turned. Kelowna would convert a rush only 1:26 after Spokane took to lead to tie the game at three. The Rockets then cashed in on their first power play of the night late in the period on a Cal Foote slap shot from the point to take a 4-3 lead after two. The Chiefs would hold the Rockets to just 5 shots in the third period. Unfortunately, Kelowna scored on 3 of them. The scoring started off a 4 on 4 midway through the period as the Rockets took a 5-3 advantage. Spokane would come back as Filip Kral’s feed through the slot found an open Zach Fischer at 15:41 to bring the Chiefs within 5-4.
Kelowna would thwart any comeback though as they scored on back to back shots just 49 seconds apart in the last two minutes to cap off a 7-4 win. It was another frustrating loss as the Chiefs out shot Kelowna 32-25, going 1-3 on the power play and 1-2 on the penalty kill. Unlike the last two defeats, Spokane found their offense, putting up 4 goals on one of the better defensive teams in the league. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, their defensive breakdowns and shaky goaltending doomed them on this night, as the team remained in 5th in the U.S. Division after their 5th straight road loss.
Spokane had started the season much better on the road than at home, but that has reversed over the last month. The Chiefs are now below .500 for the first time on the road, while the team has won 5 of its’ last 7 on home ice. That’s good news for the boys, as they now head back to the Spokane Arena to open a 5 game home stand. The Chiefs will close out their 4 games in 5 nights stretch with back to back home games with Prince George and Everett Friday and Saturday. Spokane is now 7 points back of first place Everett in the division, so this weekend is critical for the team to pick up 4 points. The Chiefs can’t be falling behind by 10 or more points, or their hopes of challenging for a division crown will be over in January.
January 9th, 2018 at Kamloops
With the road trip off to a slow start with a 4-1 loss at Seattle, the Chiefs got a couple days off to head North to Canada for back to back games in Kamloops and Kelowna. Sunday, the day after the Seattle game, the team headed up I-5 towards Canada for the 7 hour journey to Kamloops. It rained most of the day, but I got a fair amount of work done and some good sleep in as well. Monday would see the team head to Sun Peaks Resort about 45 minutes north of Kamloops to hold an outdoor practice. It’s not something the boys get to do every day so it was a nice change from the usual routine.
Game day would bring another cloudy day to Kamloops as the Chiefs called up back up goalie Campbell Arnold to back up Donovan Buskey in net. Spokane was without starter Dawson Weatherill as he was still injured from Saturday’s game with Seattle. The Chiefs would face a Blazers team that was coming off a 4-1 home loss to Tri City on Sunday. Spokane had lost their first outing to Kamloops in Spokane in mid October 3-2 in a shootout, so the Chiefs were hoping to even the season series with a road win.
Things didn’t start well for the Chiefs as Quinn Benjafield scored off a rebound net front after a save by Buskey popped free in front of the Spokane goal, and the Blazers took a quick 1-0 lead 2:49 into the game. The Chiefs would take over offensively from there, as they would out shoot Kamloops 19-10 in the first and generate the only 2 power play chances of the period. Unfortunately, Blazers goalie Dylan Ferguson turned away all 19 shots and Kamloops would extend the lead on a Luc Smith one timer with just 50 seconds left in the period to take a 2-0 lead after the first.
The second period didn’t see the Chiefs yield much, but they didn’t generate much offense either, as neither team scored as the Blazers out shot Spokane 13-12 in the second. The Chiefs would jump out in the third though as Riley Woods blast from the left wing beat Ferguson top shelf just 1:10 into the period to cut the lead to 2-1. Spokane would get a 4 minute power play after a hit on the Chiefs Luke Toporowski resulted in a double minor penalty on the Blazers. The Chiefs could not capitalize on power play though, and would fail on two more man advantage chances in the third. Spokane would dominate the third, out shooting the Blazers 17-5, but could not find the net again on Ferguson.
The Chiefs would out shoot Kamloops 48-28 on the night, but go 0-7 on the power play in a frustrating 2-1 loss. To make matters worse, Seattle picked up a point in a shootout loss to Portland, so the Thunderbirds moved past Spokane into 4th place in the U.S. Division, putting the Chiefs in last place for the first time this season. After a 9 goal performance at home against Portland last Friday, the Chiefs have put up just 2 goals in the first two games of this 3 game road trip, with their toughest game yet to come as they travel to Kelowna tomorrow night. It’s been a head shaking road trip offensively so far, so the team better find their scoring touch…and soon..or it’s going to be an empty road swing to start the New Year.
January 6th, 2018 at Seattle
The first road game of the calendar year 2018 would see the Chiefs facing a familiar foe, as Spokane traveled to Seattle to take on a Thunderbirds team for the 5th time since December 9th. Spokane and Seattle had split the previous 4 meetings, including a home and home between the two that had started the second half of the season for the two clubs. While the Chiefs were hovering around the .500 mark over their last 10 games, Seattle had won 7 of 10, including 6 of their last 7, to move just 2 points back of Spokane in the U.S. Division standings.
The Chiefs were coming off perhaps their most impressive win of the season, drubbing Portland 9-3 the previous night in Spokane, while Seattle was snapping Kelowna’s 13 game home win streak in a 6-4 victory. Spokane was hoping to avenge a 5-4 to Seattle suffered in Kent back on December 29th, in a game the Chiefs led 4-2 heading into the third, only to see the T-Birds score three goals in the third to hand Spokane only their 3rd loss in 16 games when leading after two.
Spokane came out quickly offensively in the first, out shooting Seattle 11-2 in the first half of the first period. The Chiefs also generated three early power plays, but failed to get much going on the man advantage. Seattle got some momentum off the penalty kills and slowly brought pressure into the Spokane zone. Late in the first, a net front scramble would see Chiefs goalie Dawson Weatherill try to clear the puck up the middle of the ice. The puck came right to Seattle’s Donovan Neuls, who scored on the rebound net front at 18:10 to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead after one. It was a very disappointing ending to a period controlled by Spokane for the most part, and the T-Birds used the momentum to their advantage in the second.
After a face off win outside the Chiefs blue line, Jarret Tyszka’s shot from inside the blue line hit off Weatherill’s glove and into the net to give Seattle a 2-0 lead. It was a pivotal goal in the game as Spokane would fight from behind that point forward. The Chiefs would cut the lead in half at 12:44 of the second when Jaret Anderson-Dolan took the puck from right to left across the circles and snap home his team leading 22nd goal of the season to make it a 2-1 game. Whatever momentum was built after that goal would disappear less than 4 minutes later, as Seattle would get a one timer from Neuls outside the right circle on the power play to give the Thunderbirds a 3-1 lead after two.
A quick goal in the third would have propelled Spokane right back in the game, but the Chiefs came out and put up just 1 shot in the first 9 minutes of the period. Meantime, Seattle scored their 2nd power play goal in a row on a Matt Wedman shot at 5:54 to essentially put the game away at 4-1. Spokane would make a rush late with 9 shots over the final half of the period, but it was a classic case of too little, too late for the Chiefs as they dropped their second straight game in Seattle 4-1.
Spokane would out shoot Seattle 40-33, but an 0-6 performance on the power play and 3-5 on the penalty kill doomed the Chiefs chances at a win on the road. After starting the year well away from home, Spokane has now dropped 3 straight on the road and their record fell to 9-8-1 away from the Spokane Arena. More importantly, the team is now tied with Seattle for 4th in the standings with 45 points. The Chiefs are just 4 points out of first, but they’re also another loss from falling into last place in the rugged U.S. Division.
The team will have to figure out its road woes, and quickly, as they head into Canada for back to back games with Kamloops and Kelowna Tuesday and Wednesday. Spokane better get a lot better on special teams, and they better play a far more physical game than they showed tonight. It was obvious one team came to play in the dirty areas of the ice, and it wasn’t the Chiefs on this night. This will have to chance in the next couple games, or it will be the same result as the Chiefs found tonight in Seattle.
December 31st, 2017 at Tri City
Well here we are, another year in the books and another New Year’s Eve spent in the Tri Cities. This is my 16th such occasion, and I have yet to find the words to describe bringing in a new beginning or renewal that comes with a New Year’s celebrated on a bus on I-90 eastbound for Spokane after a game with the Americans. Yet here I am, heading for Sprague as the New Year’s countdown is about to begin. What’s the saying…on the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia? And yes I would by the way.
Anyhow, where was I? Oh yes, the Chiefs finishing off another New Year’s tussle in Kennewick with the Americans. Just like last night’s game, it would finish as a one goal, 4-3 final. Unlike last night though, it would not go to overtime, and it would not finish in a Chiefs victory. Tri City would start the game with a 1-0 lead just over 12 minutes into the contest on a Riley Sawchuk goal from the right circle that beat Spokane goalie Dawson Weatherill on the glove side. The Chiefs would bounce right back though, as Jake McGrew took the puck up the right wing, toe dragged the puck between the circles and snapped home his 6th of the season just 1:02 after Sawchuck’s goal to tie the game at one. Spokane then scored on their second power play of the period as Eli Zummack scored his 10th of the year on a rebound on the left side just 59 seconds later to put the Chiefs up 2-1. Spokane would then cap a 3 goal period when Zach Fischer rebounded a Riley Woods shot in net front in the final minute of the period to give the Chiefs a 3-1 advantage heading to the second period.
Things looked reall well for Spokane at this point, as they had out shot the Ams 17-8 in the first, but as the team learned Friday night in Seattle, things can swing quickly, and they would on this night. Tri City would go on the power play early in the second after a questionable call on the Chiefs Ethan McIndoe, and the Ams would convert after the Chiefs failed on a odd man rush short handed. Hudson Elynuik had Jaret Anderson-Dolan open on the left wing, but Elynuik’s pass was sticked away, and the Americans would then score off the rush the other way as Dylan Coghlin scored just over 5 minutes in to bring Tri City within 3-2. It was a huge swing, as instead of possibly being up 4-1, the lead was now down to one. Anderson-Dolan then had the puck taken off his stick net front midway through the period, and Tri’s Nolan Yaremko fired home a shot from between the circles to tie the game at two.
Another questionable set of calls or non-calls in a scrum in front of the team benches less than two minutes later resulted in Tri City getting another power play chance, and the Americans took full advantage, as Isaac Johnson’s shot from the left circle beat a sprawled out Weatherill to give the Ams a 4-3 lead. Weatherill would depart at this point, having given 4 goals on just 13 shots. Donovan Buskey came on and pitched shutout hockey by turning aside all 13 shots he saw the rest of the way. The Chiefs meantime, put up 29 shots over the final two periods, but got nothing to show for it, as Tri City goalie Patrick Dea turned away every Spokane chance.
Chalk up another frustrating loss this week, as this one was on par with the defeat in Seattle two days ago. Both were veryyy winnable games, but head shaking officiating and the Chiefs failure to hold leads cost Spokane 4 valuable points. Now the team finds itself in 4th place in the division and while just 5 points out of first, 4 out of 2nd, and 2 behind third place Tri City, the Chiefs are also just 2 points up on 5th place Seattle in the U.S. Spokane now at least gets a little rest, as they look forward to a Friday game at home with Portland and a Saturday road trip to Seattle. Another key 4 point weekend for the Chiefs, and let’s hope the club gets the sweep to give them some hope of moving up in the division.
December 29th, 2017 at Seattle
After starting the second half of the season with a come from behind 5-4 overtime win at home over Seattle, the Chiefs got on the bus to head to Kent for the second half of the home and home with the Thunderbirds. An adventurous trek through the snow and rain across the state greeted the team as club got a chance to stop for a nice pre-game meal in Cle Elum prior to the contest.
Spokane started well, out shooting Seattle 11-5 in the first, but found themselves trailing 1-0 after a turnover led to a Nolan Volcan goal midway through the period. The Chiefs would draw even on a Riley Woods goal from the top of the left circle just over 2 minutes into second period to make it a 1-1 game. Spokane would then take their first lead of the game on a Jaret Anderson-Dolan breakaway from Woods late in the period to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead.
Seattle would then tie the game on a bizarre and controversial call. Seattle’s Noah Philp went into Chiefs goalie Donovan Buskey, cross checking Buskey down to the ice. The puck went to the right wing where the Thuderbirds Austin Strand shot it off Philp into the net. The ‘goal’ was immediately waved off by the referee at the net, leading many, including myself, the belief a penalty for goalie interference was going to be called. After a conference with the referees and linesman, a goal was called instead! There was no review upstairs. The play was blown dead and waved off by the referee, but was overturned by a conversation. The goalie Buskey was in nooo position to make a play on the puck as Philp was on top of him in the crease. As head shaking a moment as I’ve witnessed.
The call seemed to fire up the Chiefs though, as Woods scored his second of the game just 22 seconds later to give Spokane a 3-2 lead. Tyson Helgesen set up the play with a pass net front as Woods re-directed it in. Spokane then went on the penalty kill, but Eli Zummack got the puck up ice and scored a short handed tally with just 35 seconds left to give the Chiefs a 4-2 lead after two. Things were looking good for Spokane at this point in the contest, but it would all change in the third.
Seattle would score as a won puck battle ended up in a quality chance between the circles leading to a goal less than 2 minutes in to cut the lead to 4-3. A bad turnover by the Chiefs in their own zone would end up in a shot from the point tipped in midway through the period that would tie the game at 4. Another turnover at the Seattle blue line led to a 2 on 1 rush that saw Turner Ottenbreit’s wrister beating Buskey glove side at 11:49 to cap a 5-4 come from behind victory.
Spokane had chances late, but couldn’t find the net as Seattle turned the tables on the Chiefs with a third period come back. The loss evened the season series at 2-2 and dropped Spokane into 4th place in the U.S. Division, a point back of Tri City. The Chiefs now return home to open a home and home with Tri starting tomorrow night in a key 4 point series. Let’s hope the team takes care of the puck better than they did tonight, and they play like they did in the second and not the third against the Americans.
December 16th, 2017 at Portland
The Chiefs entered the final weekend of the first half of the season with the always challenging three games in three nights. After a nice bounce back win over second place Everett on Friday, the Chiefs hit the road for the long ovenight bus ride to first place Portland to take on the Winterhawks Saturday night. Spokane had to deal with the snow that fell on Friday and skirted around a semi jack knifing on I-90 West just outside of town to avoid an even longer trek to the Rose City. As it was, the team arrived in Portland at 4am, a big 12 hours before they would get to the rink to face the Winterhawks.
Let’s just say the day flew by as clouds and periods of light rain were the conditions outside. Spokane had to summon some energy as they faced a Portland team that had sat around the night before resting as the Hawks were idle on the schedule. It showed early in the game too, as Portland scored back to back short handed goals on the Chiefs first two power plays in the first 8.5 minutes of the game to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Both goals came on one on one chances net front as the Chiefs suffered lapses defending their own zone. With Spokane having not scored more than 2 goals a game in their previous 5 encounters with Portland goalie Cole Kehler, things weren’t looking too good for the Chiefs.
The team got a spark midway through the first when Jeff Faith got a pass from this year’s #1 Bantam pick Jack Finley at the right blue line. Faith shot the puck off the end wall and it went right to rookie Cedric Chenier, who scored on the rebound at 10:20 of the period to cut the lead in half at 2-1. The assist for Finley was his first career point, and Chenier’s goal sparked the Chiefs right back in the game. Spokane went back on the power play later in the period, and rather than cough up a goal, the Chiefs scored one. Eli Zummack tipped a Ty Smith shot from the point at 15:44 to even the contest at two. Portland put Spokane right back on the power play less than 2 minutes later and the Chiefs capitalized for the second straight time as Riley Woods tipped one home between the circles at 17:19 to give Spokane a 3-2 lead after one.
It was a lead the team would never lose. The Chiefs continued the momentum in the second as Jaret Anderson-Dolan snapped home a shot in the upper left corner past Kehler while driving the net on the power play at 11:55 of the second to make it 4-2 Spokane. Anderson-Dolan didn’t have much room to work, but he snuck the puck over the right shoulder of Kehler bar down in the corner on a high skilled play. Portland would cut the lead to 4-3 on a Ty Kolle batting the puck out of mid-air shot at 13:38 to get the crowd back in it. Spokane answered though, as Zummack’s line kept the puck deep in the Portland end. Luke Toporowski’s back hand in the low slot was saved, but Zummack took the rebound and zipped home his second of the night at 15:21 to make it 5-3 Spokane after two.
Portland would come out and out shoot Spokane 11-2 in the third as the Chiefs penalty kill had to knock off 3 Winterhawks power plays. Spokane would end the night a perfect 7-7 against the league’s 3rd ranked power play as goalie Donovan Buskey turned away all 11 shots on his way to a career high 37 save performance. The Chiefs would cap the scoring when Anderson-Dolan out fought Portland’s Ryan Hughes for the puck and shot it in the empty net with just over 2 minutes left to finish off a 6-3 victory. It was not only Spokane’s first win over Portland in 6 tries, it was also the first time the Chiefs had scored more than 2 goals in a game against the Winterhawks.
The Chiefs are now 17-1-1 when scoring 3 or more goals in a game, and the win tonight brought Spokane within 4 points of first in the U.S. Division. The team now returns home to face Seattle at the Spokane Arena for the second time in 8 days. A win Sunday and a Portland loss in Everett in regulation will put the Chiefs 3 back of first place Everett and 2 behind Portland heading into the break. Spokane will be challenged playing their 3rd game in 3 nights, but after a confidence boosting win against the top team in the West on the road, the Chiefs hope to wrap up the first half on a high note.
December 8th, 2017 at Everett
The Chiefs had began their 13 game journey through the U.S. Division last Saturday with a nice come from behind 4-3 overtime win in Tri Cities over the Americans. The win was a great start for this club trying to make its’ way up the standings as they had taken over 2nd place in the U.S. Spokane had nearly a week off as they entered the final two weeks of the first half of the season with weekend games at Everett and back home vs. Seattle. The last time the Chiefs headed into the Silvertips barn, they had been shut down 4-1 the day after Thanksgiving. With Everett on a 6 game winning streak, the Tips had passed the Chiefs into second place in the division by a point, so Friday’s match-up was a key one for Spokane heading into the final 6 games of the first half.
Spokane was still without starting goalie Dawson Weatherill, as the team turned to Declan Hobbs, who was hoping to pick up his second straight win in net. Hobbs had been rock solid in Tri, and would need to be so again as the Chiefs faced the top goalie in the league in Carter Hart. Hart led the WHL with a miniscule GAA of 1.43 entering Friday’s game and had been the winning goalie in the 4-1 win in November. After an afternoon bus ride over, the Chiefs were anxious to get off to a good start on the Silvertips. Spokane did just that as they controlled the offensive play in the first period. The Chiefs would out shoot the Tips 13-5 in the first, but found Hart stopping everything they threw at him. When Spokane didn’t find Hart, they shot just wide of the net, as the Chiefs ere 0-0 after one.
The Chiefs had to feel that if they played the next two periods like the first, they would break through. If only it was that easy. Spokane would out chance Everett 13-6 in the second and generate the only two power plays of the period, only to see the Silvertips take the lead. Everett’s Sean Richards won a puck battle on the right wing, drove to the left side, and fired a dart over Hobbs to the far corner under the bar with just 47 seconds left in the period to give Everett a 1-0 lead after two. It was a hard pill to swallow as the Chiefs had out shot Everett 26-11 through two and were down by a goal.
A strong start to the third would help the Chiefs get back in the game, but Everett’s Matt Fonteyne got the puck on the Spokane goal line to the left of Hobbs and throw a simple shot on net. The puck was stopped by Hobbs, but he couldn’t corral it, and it trickled inside the post just a minute into the third to make it 2-0 Silvertips. It was a huge goal…scoreboard and momentum wise. Getting two goals on Hart was going to be a huge task, and the team seemed to know it. The Chiefs would draw 3 straight power play chances in the third, but would come up empty on all three. After pulling Hobbs in the final 3 minutes, Everett would score on an empty net tally to wrap up a 3-0 win.
Spokane played one of their better games of the season defensively, out shooting Everett 39-20 and going 3-3 on the penalty kill; yet had nothing to show for it. Hart was as outstanding as his reputation and the Chiefs going 0-6 on the power play didn’t help. Spokane is now 0-12 against the Tips in 3 games against the league’s top rated penalty kill unit. Everett has now moved 3 points up on Spokane in the standings, and with Tri City’s win in Seattle tonight, the Americans have now tied the Chiefs for third. You hate to see a great effort go to waste, but that’s how it feels tonight. With Seattle coming to town tomorrow for the Chiefs annual Teddy Bear Toss, let’s hope the team plays just as well…but finds the net. The bears will appreciate it.
December 2, 2017 at Tri City
Having a 2-1 home stand usually leaves you in a good mood. Except when you lose the final game and don’t play very well doing so. That was the challenge for the Chiefs as they headed back on the bus Saturday after losing 4-2 at home to Kelowna on Friday. There weren’t a lot of positives to take from the loss to the Rockets other than the fact the team didn’t have to dwell on how badly outplayed they were. Instead, the Chiefs had a chance to make up for it as they took on their biggest rivals down in Tri Cities. The trips to Kennewick last year were dreadful though, as the Americans handed the Chiefs 6 straight losses and out scored Spokane 35-17 doing so. Let’s just say it was going to be a formidable challenge come Saturday.
Spokane was also starting back up goalie Declan Hobbs for the first time, as Dawson Weatherill was still out of the lineup for the Chiefs, and Donovan Buskey had started three straight contests in the last week. Hobbs was no stranger to the league though, having played in Kootenay over two seasons before the Chiefs acquired him in a trade in the off-season. The Americans are always tough in their barn, and were bolstered by the return of Michael Rasmussen up front. The Detroit Red Wings first round pick is a handful net front, which he would prove on this night…but first things first.
The pace of the game from the get go was up tempo and both teams were finishing checks and playing well. Tri City would break through just over 12 minutes into the game when Rasmussen took the puck up the right wing, waited for Dylan Coughlin to join the rush and hit him open on the left wing. Coughlin skated in unimpeded and fired home the first goal of the night to give the Ams a 1-0 lead. The Chiefs came right back though, as Hudson Elynuik took the puck on the left wing and fed a perfect pass through the crease to an open Riley Woods on the far post. Woods tap in tied the game at one 14:26 into the period and it looked like Spokane would get out even after one. The Chiefs took a penalty with just over a minute left and the Americans capitalized as Rasmussen parked himself net front and re-directed a pass in the final minute to give Tri City a 2-1 lead after one.
Things weren’t looking too good early in the second when Jordan Topping scored off a face-off win from the top of the right circle to just over 5 minutes in to make it a 3-1 game. I thought Hobbs didn’t stand a chance on the first two, but this goal was one where he didn’t seem to pick up the puck. It would be the last goal he surrendered though. Last year in this situation, this game would have been over. This year is a different story. The Chiefs came back midway through the period as Ethan McIndoe scored off a rebound of his own shot to bring Spokane within 3-2 after two periods. It was a huge goal as the Chiefs knew just one shot could get them back even down the stretch.
Spokane would go on the power play in the opening minute of the third. After going 0-4 through two periods, the Chiefs broke through as once again McIndoe came through. He scored on a tough rebound net front 1:04 into the third to get the game even at three, and spark an offensive outpouring from the Chiefs in the third. Spokane would put up 17 shots, including several in the final minutes that barely missed the goal. Unfortunately, the Chiefs couldn’t get the game winner and the team found themselves heading to overtime for the second straight game with the Americans.
The last time out, at the Spokane Arena November 4th, the Chiefs ended up failing to score on a power play in overtime and lost in a shootout. Spokane hoped to avoid that fate this time around and would do so. Kailer Yamamoto got free on the right wing and fed an open Ty Smith net front 3:27 into OT to give the Chiefs their first win in Kennewick in two seasons. It capped a comeback from a two goal deficit midway through the game, and gave the Chiefs a rare win when trailing heading into the third period. The victory was a great bounce back from the disappointing effort the night before, and kept Spokane in second place in the division; one point up on Everett and two ahead of Tri City. The Chiefs are still 8 back of red hot Portland, but the team has 6 in division games ahead of them over the next two weeks, including two with the Winterhawks. It’s one game at a time for this group and with a trip to Everett up next on Friday, the team is anxious to redeem themselves for their last visit to the Silvertips barn. Let’s hope the effort is similar to what I saw tonight.
November 24, 2017 at Everett
After struggling most of the early part of the season at home, the Chiefs had seemingly figured out how to play at the Spokane Arena like they’ve played on the road. Spokane was coming off two straight impressive wins on home ice, beating Prince Albert 7-0 and following that up with a 6-2 win over Kelowna on Wednesday. The Chiefs got to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday at home before heading out on the bus Friday morning for a match-up with fellow division rival Everett over on the West Side. Everett was coming off a 3-0 shut out win over Tri City on Wednesday, so both teams were feeling good about the way they were playing heading into the weekend.
The trip over was pretty uneventful, which is good this time of year, as rain was the only weather the bus encountered heading over Snoqualmie Pass. In fact, the trip went so well, the team arrived an hour earlier than normal at the rink, which gave me a chance to work my left knee out on my first day without crutches since my knee surgery on Halloween. Spokane was going to be facing a hot goaltender in Carter Hart, who had not only pitched the shut out Wednesday, but was leading the league with a 1.65 Goals Against. It was important for the Chiefs to jump out to an early lead, but it was not to be on this night. Spokane got caught with 4 guys on the right wall, while Everett had just 2. The Silvertips Patrick Bajkov won the puck and found a wideee open Sean Richards open between the circles. Richards picked his spot up top and beat goalie Dawson Weatherill midway through the period to give Everett a 1-0 lead after one.
Spokane put up 11 shots in the first, but did not generate any real tough chances on Hart in the period. The Chiefs didn’t help their cause from the get go in the second, as they gave the Tips the only 3 power plays in the period. Everett would convert the first one when Matt Fonteyne’s shot from the left wing beat Weatherill high on the glove side just 1:53 in to put the Silvertips up 2-0. Spokane would answer right back just 21 seconds later as Riley McKay found Jeff Faith open on the right wing. Faith’s centering pass to Milos Fafrak would be sent under the bar for Fafrak’s second goal in as many games to bring the Chiefs within 2-1. It was the only offensive highlight of the night for Spokane though, as Everett would score on their third power play of the period when Jake Christiansen scored on a shot from the left wing with less than two minutes left in the period to give Everett a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The Chiefs would get some offense going in the third, as they generated 3 of the 4 power plays in the stanza on their way to putting up 19 shots on goal. Unfortunately for Spokane, Hart turned away all 19 chances as Spokane would give up an empty net goal late in the game as Everett skated away with a 4-1 victory. Spokane’s penalty kill was not good against the 20th ranked Everett power play, going just 3-5 on the night, while the Tips top ranked penalty kill shut down the Chiefs on all 4 of their power play chances. Spokane put up 35 shots in the game, but very few were high quality chances as the Chiefs sh0wed a reluctance to crash the net consistently.
As a result, Everett pulled within a point of Spokane in the standings for third place, while the Chiefs fell 9 back of Portland for first and 3 behind Tri City for second. Spokane’s top players were very quiet in this game, and that is neverrr a good thing. The Chiefs will have to see their leading scorers get it going as they return home for another 3 game home stand starting on Saturday when the Regina Pats come to town. It’s going to be a long trek back home and the Pats will arrive a good 2-3 hours ahead of the Chiefs in Spokane to get the advantage in the rest department. It will be interesting to see if the team can toughen up mentally and come back out playing like they did in their last 2 home games.
November 11, 2017 at Kootenay
With a nice 6-3 win at Lethbridge behind them, the Chiefs headed out on Saturday for Cranbrook, B.C. for a meeting with the Kootenay Ice. Spokane had split a home and home series with the Ice in the second week of the season, winning 6-5 in overtime in Cranbrook, while dropping a 2-1 decision in the Chiefs home opener. One thing the Chiefs know every time they play the Ice…it’s going to be a close, toughly fought game. The journey from Lethbridge is about a 3 hour drive, so the team got the chance to relax at the hotel all morning before their pre-game meal. The weather was a lottt better going to Cranbrook than what it was coming over Thursday, so we were allll thankful for that.
If there was any doubt the Chiefs would be suffering from bus legs to the start of this game, they were quickly dispelled as Spokane dominated the first 20 minutes. The Chiefs would out shoot the Ice 22-5 in the first twenty minutes, but had nothing to show for it on the score board as Kootenay goalie Kurtis Chapman stoned the Chiefs at every opportunity. To make matters worse, Kootenay scored on just their 4th shot of the game as Cam Hausinger scored off a rush net front with just 1:02 left in the period to make it 1-0 Ice after one. That was a bitter pill to swallow and things didn’t get any better to start the second.
Hausinger would get a pass off the wall from Colton Veloso just over 4 minutes into the second to give Kootenay a 2-0 lead. The Ice then went on the power play for the first time seconds later and had a chance to add to the lead. Instead, the Chiefs got back in the game. Hudson Elynuik got the puck on a steal and found Jaret Anderson-Dolan on the rush. Anderson-Dolan’s one timer from between the circles at 4:51 cut the lead in half at 2-1. The goal was A.D.’s 4th straight in a game, and extended his points scoring streak to 5 in a row. Then just 1:08 later, Anderson-Dolan hit Elynuik net front for the Chiefs second straight short handed goal to tie the game at two. The game turned from that point forward, as Spokane would take their first lead midway through the period as Zach Fischer drove to the net and took an Anderson-Dolan pass and scored to make it 3-2 Spokane.
Kootenay would come back and tie the game late in the second off a rush and the two teams headed to third tied at 3-3. Just before the period ended though, Spokane got a power play chance that extended into the start of the third. The Chiefs came out and took advantage just 42 seconds into the period as Elynuik hit Reid on the weak side for the go ahead goal to give Spokane a 4-3 lead. The Chiefs kept the momentum going as Reid would one time a shot from the point midway through the period to make it 5-3 Spokane. Kootenay would get on the board after pulling their goalie with less than 2 minutes left to cut the margin to 5-4. The Chiefs then took a penalty in the final minute, but the penalty kill unit, which went 4-4 on the night, turned aside the Ice in the final minute to preserve a 5-4 victory.
The line with Anderson-Dolan, Elynuik, and Fischer was dominant, as one of the three figured in every goal for Spokane. Elynuik finished the night with a career high 5 points with his goal and 4 assists, while Anderson-Dolan got 3 points on the evening. The weekend trip proved to be very good offensively, as the team put up 12 goals in two nights. The penalty kill was big too, going 11-12 over the weekend and scoring 3 short handed goals. The team is now just 3 points out of first in the U.S. Division behind Portland and Tri City as they head home to open a 3 game homestand. Spokane has been a lottt better on the road in the first quarter of the season, so it will nice for the team to head home and play as well in front of the home fans as they have on the road thus far.
November 10th, 2017 at Lethbridge
Since the Chiefs last road trip through the Central Division two weeks previous, the Chiefs had dropped back to back home games to division rivals Portland and Tri City in games that Spokane could have won….but didn’t. Spokane had seen a couple changes on the roster as well, as the team traded forward Taylor Ross to Lethbridge, and sent down defenseman Tyson Feist to the Spokane Braves. The biggest news of the week though came from the Edmonton Oilers, as the team sent back the Chiefs leading scorer from last year, Kailer Yamamoto, back to the Chiefs. Yamamoto’s return is huge for Spokane, as the team can now settle guys into spots in the rotation that will make the Chiefs a much better team going forward.
Those changes would become apparent in Yamamoto’s first game back on Friday, when the Chiefs traveled to Lethbridge to open a two game road trip over the weekend. Spokane would face their former teammate Ross for the first time, and take on a Hurricanes team that like Spokane, had dropped their last 4 games in a row. The journey for the team started first thing Thursday morning from the Spokane Arena through the rain. By the time the team hit North Idaho, the snow started to come down outside Sandpoint. The snow didn’t stop until the team was out of British Columbia and into Alberta. It was a muchh longer trip than we planned, but we got to dinner on time, and the steak that awaited made the journey well worth it.
The team met up with teammate Jaret Anderson-Dolan in Lethbridge after he played for Team WHL in the Canada-Russia series. With A.D. and Yamamoto back in the fold, it was exciting to see how things would play out Friday. Unfortunately, the game didn’t quite start the way the Chiefs hoped, as the Hurricanes got on the board just 6:45 in to take a 1-0 lead. The Chiefs would answer quickly though, as Ty Smith got the puck from Yamamoto and found an open Tyson Helgesen on the left point. Helgesen’s shot hit off a spraweled Hurricane defender in the crease and went in just 44 seconds after Lethbridge had scored as the game was knotted at one. The goal opened the flood gates for the Chiefs, and Yamamoto was right in the middle of it. Spokane got one power play in the first period, and the team quickly converted. Eli Zummack got the puck to Yamamoto on the left wing. Yamamoto then back handed a pass cross ice to Anderson-Dolan, who one timed the puck in at 14:52 to give the Chiefs a lead they would never lose at 2-1. Lethbridge then had a chance to tie on the power play late in the first, but Zummack stole the puck at the Chiefs blue line and hit Yamamoto on a 2 on 1 rush. Yamamoto’s short handed tally at 17:20 capped a 3 point first for Kailer, and gave the Chiefs a 3-1 lead after one.
Spokane would come out flying in the second, as the team would build on their lead midway through the period. Riley Woods, who had a great all around game, got the puck to linemate Jake McGrew. McGrew then found Ethan McIndoe streaking to the net, and McIndoe scored his 4th of the year at 10:47 to give the Chiefs a 4-1 lead. At this point, it felt like the Chiefs were on their way to a blowout win. Spokane would take 4 straight penalties though, and the Hurricanes scored on their 3rd chance to cut the lead to 4-2. The Chiefs would come right back though, as Ty Smith got the puck at the point from Yamamoto and fired a shot through a screen net front with just 33 seconds left in the period to give Spokane a 5-2 lead after two.
Lethbridge would score just over 4 minutes into the third to make it a 5-3 game. The Hurricanes then got a penalty shot midway through the period with a chance to make it a one goal game. Goalie Dawson Weatherill made the stop though, and it turned out to a huge one within the contest. Spokane would have to kill off 3 more Hurricane power plays in the third, and Weatherill made a couple huge stops in traffic in the final 4 minutes to keep it a two goal lead. Spokane would finally put the game away when Zach Fischer scored on a breakaway from center ice with 1:38 remaining to wrap up a 6-3 Chiefs win. Spokane was out shot 14-5 in the third and 36-33 in the game. The Chiefs went 1-3 on the power play, but the big stat was 7 for 8 on the penalty kill against the 4th ranked power play in the league.
Yamamoto would earn first star with his 1 goal, 3 assist performance, while Ty Smith, Eli Zummack and Nolan Reid would come away with 2 assists apiece. Weatherill was huge with his 33 save effort, but the most exciting part of the win was the combinations up front I saw from this team. When this club skates and plays hard…they can not only compete..but beat any team in the league. Whether they believe that or not remains to be seen. Yamamoto can pair with Zummack or Anderson-Dolan. Hudson Elynuik and Zach Fischer will be great together, and Riley Woods can play with those two, or skate with Jake McGrew and Ethan McIndoe. This team is going to have three soliddd lines, and will be tough to defend…if the Chiefs skate like they did tonight. I look forward to seeing what the team does tomorrow when they head to Cranbrook to take on the Kootenay Ice.
October 27th, 2017 at Red Deer
As it turns out, Wednesday’s loss to Medicine Hat wasn’t the worst thing to happen to the Chiefs than night. During the bus ride ride to Red Deer following the game, a couple of the guys came down sick. Arriving at 3am at the hotel I’m sure wasn’t easy on the immune systems either, and the next day 4 more guys would come down ill. These are the things the average fan doesn’t see or hear about going into a game, but it’s something teams in the Western Hockey League have to battle through all the time. It was good the team got an off day though, as the team did get a chance to catch their breath going into the final game of the road swing. The off day also gave the team an opportunity to enjoy a home cooked meal, as Tyson Helgesen’s mom hosted the boys for Thanksgiving meal complete with turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cabbage rolls and cranberries. Needless to say, it was the best meal of the season…byyy farrrr.
By the time game day rolled around Friday, the team knew they would be down forwards Jake McGrew, Eli Zummack, Ethan McIndoe, Luke Toporowski and defenseman Filip Kral had all come down with the bug. The loss of 5 players meant Spokane would only be able to dress 19 guys out of the 20 spots. Playing short handed the last day of 3 games in 4 days is not exactly ideal, but the Chiefs would have to gut it out. Red Deer native Dawson Weatherill would get the start in net against the team that traded him to Spokane, so I’m sure he was looking forward to that.
Despite being short handed, the Chiefs would jump out on top when Hudson Elynuik scored on a tip of a Matt Leduc shot from the left point just 4:30 into the game to make it 1-0 Spokane. The goal was Ely’s 4th straight in a game, the second longest streak on the team this season. Elynuik would notch his team leading 10th goal of the year at 14:02 on a rebound net front to put the Chiefs up 2-0. Things were looking good until Red Deer scored on a power play goal net from from Lane Zablocki in the waning seconds of the period to cut the Spokane lead to 2-1 after one. Neither team would score in the second as the Chiefs were out shot 11-9, but Spokane’s power play failed to score on 3 tries to extend the lead.
Red Deer would come out in the third and convert their second power play chance of the night when Zablocki scored his second of the game on a rebound at 4:57 to tie the game at two. The Chiefs would respond though, as just under 9 minutes later, Jaret Anderson-Dolan would feed an open Nolan Reid on the right wing, and Reid snapped home a goal with just over 6 minutes later to give Spokane a 3-2 lead. The goal extended Reid’s goal scoring streak to 6 straight games, tied for the second longest streak in the league this year. It looked as if the Chiefs would gut out a win in their final game of the trip, but the Rebels had other ideas.
Red Deer would pull their goalie in the final minute and a half, and the move would pay off when Brandon Hagel tipped a shot from the right point past Weatherill with just 38 seconds left to tie the game at 3 and force overtime. Spokane would have to go on the penalty kill just over 30 seconds into OT, but the Chiefs put up a gutty and heroic PK, blocking 3 straight shots in one sequence to avoid losing the game. Unfortunately, a turnover in the attack zone led to a rush for Red Deer the other way, and a tip by the Rebels Jared Dmiytriw going to the net at 3:39 gave the home club a 4-3 win and sent the Chiefs home on a disappointing note.
The road trip netted 5 out of a possible 8 points and pulled Spokane into a second place tie in the division with Portland, and just 2 back of first place Tri City. Now the Chiefs have two of their 4 longest road trips of the year behind them and head into November with just 3 road games in the month. Spokane will return home to host both Portland and Tri City over the next weekend, so it’s not only a chance to gain ground on the teams at the top of the division; but also see if they’re real contenders for the top…or just pretenders. We shall soon see.
October 25th, 2017 at Medicine Hat
There was no time to celebrate and no time to rest for the Chiefs as they came off their come from behind win in Calgary with a bus trip to Medicine Hat to face the first place Tigers. The Tigers had won the night before in Red Deer to take a 2 point lead in the Central, while the Chiefs win had pulled them within 1 point of first place Portland in the U.S. Division. The match-up was the first between the two teams since their trade the previous week that sent forward Zach Fischer to the Chiefs for forward Hayden Ostir, defenseman Eric Van Impe and a 2nd round draft pick. It was going to be interesting to see how Fischer and Ostir responded against their former teammates.
The Chiefs spent the night before in Calgary, so the club was able to rest up before the 3 hour bus ride to the Hat. Spokane went to the Saddledome to pack up their gear before eating a pre-game meal in Calgary. Wednesday was veryyyy windy in Alberta as the flags were flying straight out the entire journey. Spokane entered the game a perfect 5-0 in games played in Canada and 2-0 on the Central Division trip. The first period was pretty back and forth until a turnover by Chiefs defenseman Tyson Helgesen at the Chiefs blue line led to a Tigers break into Spokane’s end of the ice. Josh Williams finished off a pass net front with a re-direct over the shoulder of Chiefs goalie Dawson Weatherill and Medicine Hat had a 1-0 lead after one.
Spokane would respond in the second as Nolan Reid hit Riley Woods down the left wing on the rush. Woods snapped a shot far post past Tiger goalie Jordan Hollett at 3:43 to tie the game at one. Medicine Hat came right back by winning a puck battle on the low wall, and the feed came to defenseman David Quenneville, who fired home a shot from the point to make it 2-1 Tigers. Back would come the Chiefs, as Hudson Elynuik got the puck behind the net to Fischer. Fischer then moved the puck net front by the right post and snapped home a shot inside the near post to tie the game at 2. The Tigers would come right back as Ostir scored on his old teammates with a power play goal to give Medicine Hat the lead back at 3-2. Medicine Hat then expanded the lead off a rush on the right wing just 55 seconds later to take a 4-2 advantage. That goal spelled the end of the night for Weatherill as Donovan Buskey took over in relief.
The Chiefs would get a power play chance just a minute later, and would convert as Nolan Reid’s shot from the left wing found the net at 15:13 to cut the lead to 4-3. It was the 5th straight game Reid has scored a goal, the longest current streak in the league as Elynuik picked up his second assist of the period. Just like the night before, Spokane found themselves down by a goal heading into the third after out shooting their opponent in the second. On this night it was a 13-6 margin, and I just had the feeling if the Chiefs could come out and skate like they did in the third the night before, they could have a second straight comeback.
Like the night before in Calgary, the Chiefs would surrender a power play goal early in the third, as Williams notched his second of the night at 4:49 to give Medicine Hat a 5-3 lead. Unlike the previous game though, it wasn’t Spokane who made the push after that goal. The Tigers then scored two goals 42 seconds apart to blow the game open at 7-3. Spokane got a little push back as Elynuik capped a 3 point night by scoring his 8th of the year on a partial breakaway at 12:26, but the result was sealed as the Chiefs lost their first game of the trip 7-4. Spokane put up 19 shots in the third, and 40 for the contest, but the Chiefs surrendered those 7 goals on 34 shots to fall into third place in the U.S. Division after Tri City beat Moose Jaw.
The loss was Spokane’s first in Canada this year, as the Chiefs are now 5-1 North of the Border. The Chiefs will have to get better goaltending in their next outing, and there’s no question the team will need to improve on the penalty kill, as Spokane has gone just 3-5 in each of their last two outings. Offense has not been a problem on this trip, as the team has put up 16 goals in three games. There was definitely some breakdowns in coverage in Medicine Hat, but the big thing was the turnovers with the puck at the blue lines that led to quality chances for the Tigers. Hopefully those areas will tighten up for the club as they get ready to face Red Deer in the final game of the trip on Friday.
October 24th, 2017 at Calgary
The Central Division trip had got off to a flying start with a convincing 6-0 in Edmonton on Sunday, so the Chiefs had the natural question…What do you do for an encore? It’s hard to play any better than they did in Edmonton, so the challenge was for the team to try to come close to that level on Tuesday as they went to their second straight NHL rink in Calgary to face the Hitmen. Spokane got a chance to rest on Monday as they took the 3 hour trek South to Calgary on an absolute perfect day weather wise. The day off came at a perfect time after the long night of travel to Edmonton and then a day game the next afternoon.
So with a day of rest behind them, the Chiefs set out to make it 2 in a row on their Central Division trip. Calgary was coming off a shootout win at home over Prince George on Sunday, so they were feeling good about their game. The Chiefs started rookie back up goalie Donovan Buskey in his second start of the season, as WHL goalie of the week Dawson Weatherill got the night off after notching his first career shut out. Things didn’t start well for Buskey or the Chiefs as Calgary scored on a net front chance just 1:49 into the game to take a 1-0 lead. Spokane then took back to back minor penalties to give the Hitmen a 5 on 3 power play. Despite coming into the game with the worst power play in the league, Calgary took advantage with a Matteo Gennero goal at 6:38 from the left wing to go up 2-0.
Spokane would answer back on their second power play chance of the period when Zach Fischer scored his first goal as a Chief on a wrap around at 8:39 to cut the margin to 2-1. Just when it looked like the Chiefs were getting back in the game, Buskey bobbled a puck net front and Cael Zimmerman scored for Calgary at 10:47 to push the Hitmen’s lead to 3-1. Spokane would get one back late in the first though when Riley Woods found Hudson Elynuik trailing on a rush, and Elynuik rifled home his team leading 7th of the year at 18:03 to cut the Calgary lead to 3-2 after one. Spokane had to feel good being down just one after being out shot 18-9 in a period controlled by Calgary offensively. The Chiefs started to turn the game in the second period as they out shot Calgary 12-8 in the middle 20, but Spokane was unable to find the net on Calgary goalie Nick Schneider.
So Spokane entered the third period still down by one, and the margin became two, when the Hitmen scored their second power play goal of the night on Gennero’s second tally of the game at 5:27 to give Calgary a 4-2 lead. The Chiefs would start their comeback less than 2 minutes later as Nolan Reid scored a goal in his 4th straight game at 7:18 off a face off to bring Spokane back within one at 4-3. After trailing the entire game, the Chiefs finally pulled even when Jaret Anderson-Dolan dug a puck off the wall and got it to Cedric Chenier. Chenier then fed a back hand pass to the weak side to wide open Riley McKay, who banged home his second of the year at 13:04 to even the contest at 4.
The air seemed to go out of the Hitmen at this point and then Spokane would get a 4 on 3 power play late in the game. Reid would put the puck on net and the loose biscuit found its’ way to Eli Zummack’s stick net front and Zummack scored what turned out to be the game winner with 2:20 remaining to give Spokane their first lead at 5-4. The Chiefs would get another power play chance in the final minute on a too many men on the ice penalty on Calgary, and with the Hitmen pulling their goalie, the Chiefs Riley Woods would score his 7th of the year into an open net with 10 seconds left to cap a 6-4 comeback win. Zummack and Reid got the assists to finish off a big third for Zummack and a career high 4 point night for Reid.
The Chiefs out shot the Hitmen 17-8 in the third and 38-34 on the game. The power play, which started slow, finished 3-6 while the penalty kill struggled at 3-5. Buskey, after a slow start, was rock solid in the third, and turned away 30 shots to pick up his first career victory. The team got contributions from just about everybody and the comeback should serve the team well going forward. Spokane won’t get a lot of time to celebrate either, as they head on the road tomorrow to take on first place Medicine Hat. The offense has averaged 6 goals a game on the trip, so let’s hope that trend continues tomorrow against a high powered Tiger offense.
October 22nd, 2017 at Edmonton
The Chiefs headed out on their Central Division road trip still in search of their identity as a team. After 12 games, Spokane was 6-5-0-1 after a 3-2 shootout loss at home to the team with the worst record in the league in Kamloops. This after beating the #9 team in all of the CHL in Moose Jaw Wednesday night. Finding the consistency to win night in and night out was the mission for Spokane as they headed into Alberta on Sunday to face one of the three teams tied for first in the Central in Edmonton.
Spokane would take on an Oil Kings team coming off a shootout win over Prince George on Friday, and the Chiefs would play their first game in Rogers Place, the new home of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. To say this place was a palace is an understatement. It is a state of the art facility, and the Oilers have gone from one of the bottom facilities in the league to the best. I know the boys always get excited to play in NHL facilities like here in Edmonton and Calgary, so there’s a worry about the team being distracted and a bit wide eyed going in. Not to mention the fact their teammate, Kailer Yamamoto is now making his living with the Oilers in this very building.
All of that on the side, the Chiefs came out and got on the board just 5:04 into the contest when Hudson Elynuik got a Riley Woods pass on the left wing and got a shot on net. The rebound came to Ely and he put it off the back of the right pad and skate of goalie Boston Bilous and into the net to make it 1-0 Chiefs. Spokane would get a two man advantage on the power play in the final minute of the first and would convert as Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s shot glanced off Ethan McIndoe and into the net with 35 seconds left to give Spokane a 2-0 lead after one. Elynuik would also notch an assist on what turned out to be a big night offensively for the 20 year old forward. Spokane would out shoot Edmonton 12-6 in the first as they looked to keep it going in the second.
As it turns out, the Chiefs may have played their best period of the season in the second. Anderson-Dolan got it started as he took a Cedric Chenier pass down the right wing, went in behind the net and circled back on a wrap around to score his 4th of the year at 8:01 to make it a 3-0 game. Chenier notched his first career point on the assist, as he continues to impress with his increased playing time. Spokane would then convert their only power play of the second period as Nolan Reid snapped home a shot in the top far side corner at 11:38 to extend the lead to 4-0. The goal stretched Reid’s consecutive goal scoring streak to 3 as Riley Woods and Filip Kral got the assists. Kral’s assist gave him points in all 5 games he has played for Spokane. Elynuik would cap a 3 goal period as he tipped in a Ty Smith shot at 18:29 to give the Chiefs a commanding 5-0 lead after two.
In all the joy of having a 5 goal lead, my night went South, as the computer lines at Rogers Place went out in the visiting radio booth. The phone lines didn’t work either, so after being off the air for about 20 minutes, I did the rest of the game on my cell phone. You read right…old school radio. Unfortunately, listeners missed out on the final goal of the night, as Riley Woods scored from net front 3:56 into the last period to make it 6-0. Elynuik capped a 4 point night with an assist, and line mate Zach Fischer notched his first point as a Chief with a helper on the goal. After that, the defense held off the Oil Kings as goalie Dawson Weatherill secured his first career shutout with a 22 save effort in a 6-0 victory.
Spokane out shot Edmonton 32-22 on the night, going 2-4 on the power play and a perfect 4-4 on the penalty kill. Overall, it was as solid a performance as the Chiefs have had in two seasons. Weatherill made a couple big saves in the first, and after Spokane got the early lead, the Chiefs dictated how this game would be played. It was good to see the team get rewarded for playing well, something that didn’t happen in the last game against Kamloops. Now the challenge for this team is to bring this same effort and performance on a night in, night out basis. Next up is the Calgary Hitmen Tuesday at the Saddledome, home of the NHL’s Flames. Let’s hope the boys play as well in that NHL barn as they did tonight in Edmonton.
October 10th, 2017 at Portland
With two straight losses against Portland, the Chiefs had fallen out of first place in the division for the first time this season as the Winterhawks now had a two point lead entering Tuesday’s third straight meeting between the two clubs. Portland had dominated the first two match-ups, outscoring Spokane 13-3 and had done so with back to back games with huge second periods. The Hawks had put up 3 in the second to snap a 1-1 tie on their way to a 6-1 victory in Spokane Friday and had followed up with a 4 goal period to blow open a 2-1 game en route to a 7-2 win in Portland Sunday.
Going into Tuesday’s meeting, the Chiefs had struggled with generating offensive chances and had seen their power play dry up, going 0-13 in the two losses. Spokane was hoping to turn that around as the two clubs met at the Memorial Coliseum, just across the parking lot from the Moda Center; where Sunday’s game was contested. Spokane started Dawson Weatherill in net as went up against the league goalie of the week, Portland’s Cole Kehler, who had beaten the Chiefs in the previous two meetings. Things didn’t start well for Spokane as the Winterhawks scored just 6:40 into the game on a Kieffer Bellows goal off an odd man rush. The Chiefs Rykr Cole then took a 5 minute major penalty less than a minute later to put the Hawks on a 5 minute power play.
Just when it looked like Portland would blow the game open with their man advantage chance, the Chiefs penalty kill came up huge, keeping the Hawks off the board over the next 5 minutes to keep it a one goal game. Spokane then had to kill off another power play at the end of the first and into the second. Despite being out shot 19-11 by this point in the game, the Chiefs were still down only one behind the play of Weatherill. Spokane then got 3 power play chances of their own in the second, but the man advantage woes continued as the Chiefs came away with nothing in the net. To make matters worse, the team gave up a breakaway goal during their second power play to fall behind 2-0 after two.
Spokane would get two more power play chances in the third, but once again the team failed to get one in the net as the club is now just 2-39 on the season on the PP…and a woeful 0-18 against Portland. The Winterhawks would wrap up the win with another breakaway goal in the final 6 minutes, as Kehler turned aside all 43 Spokane shots to complete the 3-0 shutout win. There was no question this game was the best of the three the Chiefs played against Portland, but unfortunately Spokane had nothing to show for it as they fell 4 points back of the Winterhawks in the U.S. Division. To make matters worse, Seattle’s win over Vancouver put the Thunderbirds a point ahead of the Chiefs for second.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Spokane, as the Chiefs return home for 4 straight games. The first three are against B.C. Division leading Victoria, tough rival Tri City, and CHL top 10 rated Moose Jaw. Spokane will have to find its’ game and soon if they hope to snap their 3 game streak. Finding the net on the power play will go a long ways as well for the team as they will face some of the top teams in the league over the next week. After losing two of three at home in their first home stand, the team hopes to find some magic on home ice before they embark on their 4 game Central Division road trip to end October.
October 8th, 2017 at Portland
The Chiefs entered an unusual part of the schedule this past week, as they faced the same team three straight times. I couldn’t recall that happening in the previous 15 years I’ve called games for the club, so it was a unique occurrence. Spokane would face division rivals Portland at the Spokane Arena Friday, before heading to the Rose City for games Sunday and Tuesday. Things didn’t start well in the three game ‘series’, as Portland used a 3 goal second period on their way to a 6-1 win at the Arena Friday. The loss was the second in 3 home games for Spokane, so the team was hoping the road trip to Portland Sunday would get the team back on track.
The club left for Portland on Saturday after a morning practice. Spokane got a chance to relax at home as the Winterhawks went to Seattle to play the Thunderbirds. Portland picked up where they left on Saturday as they rolled over the T-Birds with a 10-5 win. The victory pulled the Hawks into a first place tie with Spokane in the division with 8 points, setting up Sunday’s game with the winner taking over the division. The Chiefs started back-up goalie Donovan Buskey in his first start of the season and he would be tested early. Portland would come out out-shooting Spokane 16-4 in the first and score two goals in the first 6:04 to go up 2-0. Skyler McKenzie scored from between the circles to make it 1-0 and Keoni Texiera scored off a face-off from the left point to give the Winterhawks a lead they’d never lose. Spokane would cut the lead in half when Jaret Anderson-Dolan stole the puck in the neutral zone and hit Riley Woods down the right wing. Woods snapped home his team leading 4th goal of the year midway through the first to cut the lead to 2-1 after the first.
Despite seeing Portland controlling things in the first, the Chiefs were just 1 goal down heading into the second. Just like Friday’s game though, the second period would prove to be Spokane’s undoing. Portland scored 3 unanswered goals on Friday in the 6-1 win. Sunday, the Hawks would go one better, potting 4 in the net to blow the game open. Conor MacEachern’s shot from the left circle slipped through at 4:19 to make it 3-1. McKenzie would score a power play goal from the right wing at 7:42 expanded the margin to 4-1 and Ryan Hughes scored on a rebound net front 1:13 later to put Portland up 5-1 and spell the end of the night for Buskey. Dawson Weatherill came on in relief and the Chiefs got a great chance to get back in the game when Portland defenseman Brendan DeJong got a 5 minute major for a cross check at center ice on the Chiefs Jeff Faith. Spokane had a great chance to get back in the game with the 5 minute power play, but not only did the Chiefs fail to score, but Portland capped the 4 goal period when Hughes scored short handed at 13:03 to give the Winterhawks a commanding 6-1 lead after two.
The third period didn’t go much better for Spokane as the Hawks out shot the Chiefs 18-6 in the period to end the night with a 43-24 shot advantage. Portland would go up 7-1 on a goal midway through the third, but Spokane would respond. Eli Zummack would score on a rebound of a Jake McGrew shot at 13:09 to cap the scoring. The assist was McGrew’s first as a Chief and was one of the few bright spots for Spokane on the night. The Chiefs power play continues to struggle, going 0-6 on the night and is now just a dismal 2-34 through 7 games. That’s just 5.9%, the second worst in the league. It is something Spokane needs to get going…and soon.
One thing that has stood out over the two games with Portland is the Winterhawks speed. Their skating has overwhelmed Spokane in the open ice, and the Chiefs will have to buckle down defensively and take better care of the puck when the two teams meet again Tuesday in Portland. Spokane has been outscored 13-3 in the two losses to the Hawks, and the dominance will continue unless the Chiefs make the commitment to stop trying to match Portland scoring chance for scoring chance. It will be interesting to me to see how Spokane approaches Tuesday’s game with the Winterhawks.
September 29th, 2017 at Kootenay
With two straight wins at Prince George behind them, the Chiefs headed out for their third straight on the road as they headed North to Cranbrook, B.C. to face off with the Kootenay Ice. One thing is guaranteed when the Chiefs take on the Ice…Kootenay is going to play their very best and give Spokane all they can handle. Last season the Ice staggered to the worst record in the league, but beat Spokane in 2 of 5 meetings. Kootenay had split a pair of games with Calgary in their opening weekend, winning at home and dropping a 3-1 decision on the road. The Ice are one of the youngest teams in the league, but they also have some good young talent, something they have in common with the Chiefs.
The team headed out Friday morning for Cranbrook on an absolutely picture perfect day. Temperatures were in the upper 70’s and it felt more like baseball weather than it did hockey. After stopping for their pre-game in Bonners Ferry, the team got to the rink for the first of 3 visits to Cranbrook this season. Spokane welcomed back forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan to the lineup as well, after he was returned by the L.A. Kings this week. The Chiefs also released third goalie Declan Hobbs and forward Adam Beckman to reduce the roster down to 25 players plus forward Kailer Yamamoto, who is still in the NHL with Edmonton.
One thing the Chiefs did well in Prince George was keep the game close early, which is always a key to winning on the road. On this night, Spokane would fail to do that. Kootenay’s Barrett Sheen scored just over 8.5 minutes into the game as he muscled his way down the right wing and lifted the puck over Chiefs goalie Dawson Weatherill to make it 1-0 Ice. Kootenay then converted their first power play chance in just 11 seconds as Alec Baer scored on a net front tap in. Despite out shooting the Ice for much of the first period, the Chiefs found themselves down 2-0 after one. Spokane kept themselves in the game though, as the Chiefs killed off a Kootenay two man advantage power play for 1:31 between the end of the first and start of the second periods.
In the second period though, the Ice would expand their lead as Baer scored his second power play goal of the night midway through the period to make it 3-0 Kootenay. When Peyton Krebs, who had assisted on the first three goals, scored on a rebound of his own shot at 14:50, the Ice were in firm control at 4-0. The Ice though, would help the Chiefs work themselves back in the game, by taking 5 straight minor penalties in the second. Spokane would capitalize as Ty Smith rifled home his second of the year on a shot from the high slot on the power play at 17:10 to cut the margin to 4-1 after two. The Chiefs had a 5 on 3 chance for 1:10 to end the second, but failed to take advantage. I thought this missed chance would doom Spokane eventually.
The Chiefs came out in the third though and would cut the lead in half as Riley McKay scored off the rush on the left wing at 6:19 of the period to make it 4-2 Kootenay. The Ice answered back though as their third power play goal of the evening at 9:43 put Kootenay back up by 3 at 5-2. Overcoming a 3 goal deficit on the road at the start of a third period is tough enough…having to do so midway through a period is nearly impossible. On this night tough, the Chiefs would do the near impossible. Riley Woods would start the comeback with a great individual effort with a steal and carrying the puck to the left wing and snapping home his second of the season at 11:31 to cut the margin to 5-3. Anderson-Dolan then took a pass down the right wing and sent a shot far post at 14:45 to make it a 5-4 game.
At this point, you had to feel anything was possible. The Chiefs got a break when Brett Davis missed an open net after Spokane pulled Weatherill from net in the last 2 minutes. Kootenay then had the puck in their own zone, but Cale Fleury iced the puck trying to score in the empty net with 41 seconds remaining, setting up Spokane on a draw in the Kootenay zone. Spokane won the face off and Ty Smith took the puck on the right wing and fired it on net. In the scramble for the rebound, Woods scored his second of the night with 30.9 seconds left to tie the game at 5. It was a remarkable comeback and seemed to stun the Ice and their home crowd as the teams headed to overtime.
In the OT, it was a chess match of trying to maintain possession of the puck. After Spokane turned it over in the Ice zone, the Chiefs Hudson Elyniuk stole the puck back in the neutral zone. He hit Rykr Cole on the right wing and Cole drove the puck into the Kootenay end and fired home a slap shot 1:59 into overtime to complete the improbable comeback with a 6-5 Chiefs triumph. After struggling so much in the first 40 minutes of play, Spokane turned the game around with a 4 goal third and a game winner in OT to run their mark to 3-0. The last time I remember the Chiefs with a comeback like this, it was a few seasons back when Spokane rallied from a 5-1 third period deficit at home against Seattle to win 7-6 in overtime. That was home…to do this on the road was about as stunning as it gets.
It’s a huge win for this club, that is trying to establish a culture of winning after missing the playoffs last year for the first time in 10 seasons. I will be curious to see how the team builds off of this as they head home to the Spokane Arena to open a 3 game home stand the next night against the Ice in the second half of the home and home set. With division rivals Everett and Portland to follow next week, the Chiefs will get an early dose of how they stand within their division. One thing is for certain though. If this team maintains the dogged determination they showed on this night in Cranbrook, they will be a tough club to play all season.
September 23rd, 2017 at Prince George
I’ve written about it a number of times over the years. The old ‘How tough it is to win 2 straight games on the road over the same team’ bit. It really is though. It’s especially tough in Prince George, as the Cougars always seem to rise to the occasion after losing the first one at home. They did so last year against the Chiefs as after dropping the first game, PG stormed back with a 5 goal third to beat Spokane in game two. After the Chiefs won the season opener last night, I knew it was going to be a task for Spokane to get the two game sweep.
It became apparent it would tough right from the get go. A turnover by the Chiefs on an ill advised pass to the Cougars blue line led to a rush the other way. Dawson Weatherill was able to make the save on the initial shot, but PG’s Jerad Bethune pounced on the rebound and put home the game’s opening goal just 4:25 in to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead. Before the fans could celebrate their team’s early lead, Spokane roared right back. Riley Woods got the puck behind Prince George’s net and came up to the left of Cougar goalie Taylor Gauthier. Woods then fed a perfect pass to an open Rykr Cole, who was open on the far post, and Cole slammed home his first of the season just 28 seconds after the Prince George tally to tie the game at one.
The Chiefs would then take the lead for good later in the first. Taylor Ross dug the puck off the low wall and fed the puck to Hayden Ostir. Ostir just to the other side of the net on the right wing and back handed a pass right to an open Hudson Elyniuk, who came on the backside to score his second goal in as many nights to give Spokane a 2-1 lead after one. The Chiefs would expand the lead as they scored the only goal of the second. Ty Smith brought the puck on the rush over the Cougar blue line and hit Nolan Reid on the left wing. Reid one timed his first of the season into the net just 2:48 into the period to put Spokane ahead 3-1 after two.
Spokane withstood a Cougar charge in the third, as PG out shot the Chiefs 10-1 at one point. Goalie Dawson Weatherill turned aside every chance, as he would finish the night with 24 saves in his second straight win. The Chiefs put the game away as Elyniuk hit an open Eli Zummack for an empty net goal with 2 minutes remaining to give Spokane a 4-1 lead. Ethan McIndoe would cap the scoring on a tip of a Riley Woods shot with just 19 seconds left to wrap up a 5-1 Chiefs victory and give Spokane a tough and well earned 4 point road trip.
It’s a great start to the season for the club and will certainly give some confidence to a team needing it after missing the playoffs last season. The challenge will now be for the team to get better, as there was certainly a lot to improve upon, despite the pair of wins. Spokane now heads to Cranbrook, B.C. to take on an improved Kootenay team that alwaysss plays the Chiefs tough. Let’s hope the team builds on this opening weekend’s success and continue to improve next weekend in their home and home series with the Ice.
Season Opener September 22, 2017 at Prince George
The 2017-18 season would begin with a new man in charge on the bench for the Chiefs, as Dan Lambert took over for the franchise’s all time winning coach in Don Nachbaur. Lambert was used to winning in the Western Hockey League, having guided Kelowna to the WHL title in 2015 in his last tour of duty in the Dub. He would also take over a Chiefs team that had failed to qualify for the playoffs last year for the first time in 10 years. With 21 players back who had played at least part of last season, the Chiefs would not be lacking in experience.
For the first time since the 2007-08 season, Spokane would open on the road at Prince George. When I saw this on the schedule over the summer, I danced an Irish jig that would have made my ancestors proud. To get the longest trip of the season out of the way on the first weekend while the roads are in great shape was the best present the team could have asked. The drive up to PG can be hazardous in the middle of Winter, and as it turned out, we still hit snow outside of Merritt on the journey North. The snow wasn’t a blizzard though, so it did little to hinder the journey. The team left the Spokane Arena Wednesday night about 9pm and would arrive for breakfast in Williams Lake, B.C. about 7:30 am. I’m not a huge fan of Denny’s, but after being cramped on a bus for nearly 11 hours without a meal, the Grand Slam was pure heaven to eat.
Prince George was about 2.5-3 hours away, and the drive went pretty quick on a perfect day outside. The sun was out and the temperatures were warmer than in Spokane. We got to the CN Centre, the home of the Cougars, about 11:30 am and unloaded all the team gear to the locker room. We got to the hotel in downtown a little after noon and had the day to ourselves. After getting sporadic sleep the night before, it felt good to just relax and unwind. We got to dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant about 6 pm, and devoureddd everything in sight. Anything that’s different from chicken or pasta is to be cherished…and I took fullll advantage of the break in cuisine. The team hit the hay early, and I know I did, as I was out by 9:30…something that neverrr happens at home.
There’s nothing like a great night’s rest to get you ready for a season opener. The day started really foggy out, but it burned off by lunch time. Breakfast and the pre-game meal broke up a day of full prep work on my part, as I had to get some homework done on the new players for the Chiefs, not to mention all the Prince George players. Knowing I had an extended pre-game show with ceremonies from the home team that extended things an extra 25 minutes didn’t help my cause. The day flew by though as the team boarded the bus for the arena a little over 2 hours before game time.
The Chiefs started only 2 rookies in their opener, in forwards Adam Beckman and Carter Chorney. Otherwise, it was a veteran crew for Spokane and the team withstood an early Prince George pressure offensively to keep the game scoreless. The Chiefs would then break through 7.5 minutes into the game when Ty Smith got the puck in his own zone and zipped a perfect stretch pass to Taylor Ross at the Cougar blue line. Ross skated in on the breakaway and snapped a shot past Cougar goalie Tavin Grant to make it 1-0 Chiefs. Prince George would get 3 power play chances in the first, but Spokane’s penalty kill turned away all 3 opportunities. On the Cougars second PP, Spokane would go deep on the Prince George again, as Hudson Elyniuk hit Riley Woods in stride on a breakway. Woods would slide a back hander through the pads of Grant 7 minutes after Ross’ goal to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead after one.
After not getting a power play chance in the first, Spokane would capitalize on their only PP in the second. Riley McKay fed a perfect cross ice pass to Elyniuk on the right wing, and Elyniuk scored with just 1 second left on the power play at 8:45 of the second to give the Chiefs a 3-0 edge. Spokane then committed three straight minor penalties late in the second to give Prince George two 5 on 3 power play chances. The Cougars scored on their first one with less than 4 minutes left to cut the lead to 3-1. Spokane answered right back though, as Ty Smith got a pass from McKay on a face-off win and scored with just 58 seconds remaining to give the Chiefs a 4-1 lead after two. It was a huge answer for Spokane as they held a commanding 3 goal lead moving to the third.
Prince George would tally the only goal of the third with a shot off the rush midway through the period to cut the Chiefs lead to 4-2. It was as close as the Cougars would come, as the Chiefs managed the only 2 power plays of the period and out shot PG 11-9 in the final 20 minutes. Dawson Weatherill was rock solid in net, turning away 28 Cougar shots, and also picking up an assist on Woods breakaway goal in the first. The Chiefs special teams went 1-3 on the power play and 5-6 on the penalty kill, so it was a good start in that respect.
The win was coach Dan Lambert’s first as a Chief, and he had to be happy with the overall result for his squad. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but a win in game one is alwayss a good thing. Now the team will try to make it two in a row tomorrow night before getting back on the bus for the longgg ride home. One thing I have learned though. The ride is always a lottt shorter when you have a win to look back on.
September 24 - Season Opener at Tri-City
For the first time in my 15 years as the Voice of the Chiefs, the team headed into a season opener with a new General Manager. My only boss over my time period, Tim Speltz, stepped down in the summer to take a new job with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team announced Scott Carter as the new GM a couple of weeks before the season opener, so a new era was beginning for the club as they opened the 2016-17 season. While a new boss, and a number of new faces were on the roster, the team had several veterans to lean on as the team opened the year with a familiar foe, the Tri City Americans. The last time I remember the Chiefs opening a season with a team besides Tri City, it was the year Spokane won the Memorial Cup, as Spokane opened the 2007-08 year in Prince George. The Chiefs have had some success against the Americans of late, having won 5 straight season openers from Tri City, including the last 4 in a row at Tri.
The Chiefs would have a new goalie in net, as last year’s starter Tyson Verhelst retired in the off-season. The team acquired 20 year old Jayden Sittler from Lethbridge over the summer to shore up last defense, while Matt Berlin started his second straight season with Spokane as the back-up. Spokane has a number of veterans returning on defense as well as up front, while mixing up a number of new faces to this year’s squad. The team went 4-2-1 in the exhibition season, including getting back to back overtime wins over Tri City to end the pre-season campaign.
Spokane made the 2 hour journey down Highway 395 on a perfect day weather wise. It was bright and sunny, with the temperatures in the 70’s…the kind of day you wish every day could be. The Chiefs were without forward Hudson Elyniuk, who was off at Carolina Hurricanes NHL camp. The team did welcome back leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto, who returned from playing in the U.S. top prospects game earlier in the week. Playing in the Tri Cities is always a tough prospect, and tonight’s game would certainly prove to be no different.
A good start is always essential to getting a win in Kennewick, and the Chiefs certainly did not do that on this night. Tri City would score on their first power play of the game on a Michael Rasmussen goal just over two minutes into the contest to take a 1-0 lead. Rasmussen would strike again the Americans next power play midway through the period to make it a 2-0 game. The Chiefs meantime were generating all of 3 shots in the first half of the game, as they had to defend in their own zone much of the period. Rasmussen would then cap a natural hat trick with a goal off a 4 on 4 late in the first to give the Americans a commanding 3-0 lead after one. The period was a disaster in about every element of the game for Spokane, as they started the second period back on the penalty kill.
The Chiefs PK unit held Tri off the board to start the period, and then countered with a power play goal of their own on a Kailer Yamamoto tally at 4:47 to cut the lead to 3-1. Kailer’s brother Keanu set up the play with a nice feed from the right wing to an open Kailer on the left side, as his shot from the circle beat Tri City goalie Beck Warm. Tri would re-take a 3 goal lead when Vladislav Lukin scored his first of the night less than 2 minutes later to make it 4-1. Spokane then converted their second straight power play when Kailer left a perfect drop pass for Keanu, who rifled home a shot from the left wing to bring the Chiefs within 4-2. Careless handling of the puck would doom the Chiefs a few minutes later though, as a turnover would lead to an easy Lukin goal between the circles to put the Ams back up 5-2. Spokane came right back on their next man advantage, as Keanu Yamamoto got the puck to an open Jaret Anderson-Dolan on the right wing on the power play at 17:38 to put the Chiefs back in it at 5-3. Poor defensive coverage would cost Spokane with a minute to go in the second though, as Rasmussen scored his 4th of the night on an easy rebound with just a minute left to give Tri City a 6-3 lead after two.
That goal was a back breaker as far as any comeback attempt. If the Chiefs go to the third down two, an early goal in the third would have meant a whole new game. As it was, the Americans came out in the final period and scored the last two goals to wrap up an easy 8-3 opening night win. The result on the scoreboard was disappointing enough, but the effort on the part of the team was even more so. Compete and effort are two things a team can control, and on this night, Spokane lacked in both. Sittler was a sitting duck in net throughout the night, as Tri had clean looks at the net. It will be a long week of practice as the team gets back to the drawing board and hope for a muchhh better result against the Americans in the home opener in a week.
October 11, 2016 at Seattle
It had been 3 weeks since the Chiefs had gone on the road to play a game, and it certainly felt like it. Spokane had played just 4 games over the first three weeks of the season, with the last 3 at home in the Spokane Arena. After winning the home opener, the team had dropped 2 in a row over the previous weekend to Lethbridge and Victoria, so it was probably going to do the team some good to get away and focus strictly on their game. With just 4 games under their belt, the team would begin a 4 games in 5 nights stretch on Tuesday with a game in Seattle against the defending Western Conference champion Thunderbirds.
The team left on Monday for the West Side, getting in a practice at the Arena before heading to North Bend for dinner. It was close to 9pm before the team got to the hotel, so it was nice to get a good night’s sleep, as the rest of the trip was notttt going to offer any good rest over the next couple of evenings. It was a great day in Seattle on game day, with the sun brightly out all day…which rarely happens this time of year. Spokane was still without forwards Markson Bechtold and Logan Foster, who were out with injury. The team also got bad news when they learned forward Jake McGrew was out for the season with a knee injury. Spokane would go with Dawson Weatherill in net for the second straight game, as he had performed strongly in a 4-1 loss to Victoria in his previous start.
The Chiefs didn’t generate a lot of chances in the first period, but they did get the best looks in the first 20 minutes. Seattle would out shoot Spokane 13-7 in the first, but the Chiefs would get three point blank looks from Evan Fiala and Kailer Yamamoto. Unfortunately, Seattle goalie Rylan Toth would stop each attempt, with his save on a one on one with Fiala being the highlight of the period. Spokane would break through in the second though. Jaret Anderson-Dolan got the puck on the left wing and went behind the Seattle net. His pass into the slot would find an open Pavel Kousal, who beat Toth 6 minutes into the second to make it 1-0 Spokane. Seattle would even the score just over 10 minutes later when Scott Eansor beat the Chiefs defense and slid the puck through the pads of Weatherill to tie the game at one after two.
Spokane was out shot 26-14 through 2 periods, but came out gunning in the third. Keanu Yamamoto hit his brother Kailer with a pass on the left wing, and Kailer snapped home his team leading 4th goal of the season just 40 seconds into the third period to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead. It was a lead Spokane would never lose, in large part to the play of Weatherill in goal. In just his second start with the Chiefs, he would turn aside 19 shots in the third period, while the Chiefs killed off 2 Seattle power play chances. On one of the opportunities, Seattle pulled Toth from net and had a 6 on 4 advantage, but the Chiefs held firm defensively. Spokane would put the game away when Curtis Miske intercepted a pass in the Seattle end with the Thunderbird net empty, and he would fire home his 2nd goal of the season in the final seconds to cap a 3-1 victory.
After the previous weekend’s performances, the win was much needed by the team to start the week off right. With an all night ride to Kamloops awaiting, and then back to back games at home with the top 2 teams in the division, Everett and Portland waiting, this win was huggeee for Spokane. Weatherill is making a very strong case to make the goalie job his, so it will be interesting to see how Jayden Sittler will step up his game to get the #1 job back. Hopefully the team will be as defensively responsible tomorrow night in Kamloops. They will need to be to have a chance against the Blazers.
October 14, 2016 at Kamloops
The trip had begun on a positive note with a nice win the previous night in Seattle, so now the Chiefs go back on the bus for an all night ride to Kamloops to face the Blazers. Kamloops was playing their first home game since their season opener, having just finished a 7 game road trip. Spokane had not fared well against the Blazers last season, having lost all 4 games to Kamloops by an 18-7 margin. The Chiefs would have to snap that streak without forwards Hudson Elyniuk and Hayden Ostir, as both were down injured. Spokane did call up rookie forward Eli Zummack to help with the suddenly diminishing numbers on the front lines.
After a stellar 44 save performance in the win the night before against Seattle, Dawson Weatherill was back between the pipes for Spokane hoping to notch his second straight win. Things looked good early on, as the Chiefs went on the power play just under 2 minutes into the contest. Spokane would convert their first man advantage when Keanu Yamamoto took an Ondrej Nayman tip pass and found an open Jaret Anderson-Dolan on the opposite post 2:20 into the game to make it 1-0 Spokane. Little did we know that would prove to be the highlight of the night for the Chiefs.
Kamloops would get on the board almost 14 minutes into the first on a shot from the left point from defenseman Ondrej Vala that eluded Weatherill to tie the game at one. The Chiefs got back on their heels after that; giving up a power play goal a minute and a half later and then surrendering the Blazers third goal of the first in the final 40 seconds of the period. Spokane came out in the second and started pressuring in the Kamloops end of the ice, but couldn’t find the net. A turnover would cost the Chiefs dearly as a goal from defenseman Nolan Kneen at 9:23 of the second would expand the lead to 4-1 Kamloops.
The Blazers then went out and scored two more goals in 3:01 to put the game away at 6-1. Weatherill was relieved after the 5th goal, and back-up Jayden Sittler surrendered only one goal in the final half of the game. The Chiefs would out shoot Kamloops 13-7 in the third period, but would fail on 3 power play chances in their attempt to get back into the contest. Spokane was out shot 35-30 on the game, going just 1-5 on the power play, and struggled on the penalty kill at 1-3.
The team just didn’t generate enough energy to put together a consistent offensive effort on the night, and defensively the club was physically out hit and turned the puck over way too often in their own zone to be effective. It was not a great way to end the brief two game road trip, but the team did come out it 1-1, so the journey wasn’t a total loss for the Chiefs. The team will now head home for a three game home stand against the top two teams in the division in Everett and Portland. It will be a chance to either make up ground in the U.S., or fall even further behind. We’ll see how the Chiefs step up over the weekend.
October 21, 2016 at Regina
It’s always the biggest road trip of the season for the Chiefs when they head to up into Canada for a trek either through the Central or Eastern Division of the league. This year, it was Spokane’s turn to head East for 11 days as they played all 6 teams from the Eastern Division, which this year would be a real challenge. Spokane was coming off a 3 game home stand in which they went 1-0-1-1, picking up points in all three games. The challenge for this year’s journey would be the team facing some of the top teams in the league, not just the Eastern Conference.
The miles the team bus puts on is also pretty hefty on this trip. It’s usually around 3,300 round trip miles the Chiefs will put in over this 6 game ride, so keeping mentally and physically sharp can be a little difficult. The team left Spokane Wednesday morning for an all day ride to Medicine Hat. After a stop for lunch in Fernie, BC, the Chiefs finished off the journey to the Hat around dinner time in time for a barbeque chicken and brisket dinner. After a night’s rest, the team ate breakfast and then got on the bus again for the 5 hour jaunt to Regina on Thursday. One thing that’s great about this trip in late October….nooo snoowww. The sun was out and the temperatures hit the mid 50’s, a far cry from the teens and foot of snow on the ground the last time the team made the trip through the East two years ago.
After getting a practice in Regina Thursday, the team got dinner and hit the hay for Friday’s game. The Pats were going to be a handful, as they were only team in the WHL that had not lost a game in regulation. Regina had rolleddd over the Chiefs 7-2 the year before in Spokane and had 3 straight in the series, so the team had to play as well as they’ve played all year to have a shot against the Pats. Spokane went with goalie Jayden Sittler against Regina, while the Pats went with their back-up Jordan Hollett in net. Things didn’t start well for Spokane in this one, as Luc Smith scored on a rebound off a rush just 6:31 into the game to put Regina ahead 1-0. The Chiefs would generate 2 power plays in the first, and would convert on their second late in the period. Curtis Miske’s shot from the point with just one second left on the man advantage tied the game at 1 at the 14:59 mark. The Chiefs would swarm on the Pats for the rest of the period, out shooting Regina 16-7 in the first, but the two teams headed to the intermission tied at one.
The second period would be the deciding stanza…and not in a good way for Spokane. The Chiefs would get two power play chances in the second to try and take the lead, but on both occasions, it ended up as a disaster for Spokane. On their first power play of the period, a turnover at the Regina blue line led to Austin Wagner going in on a breakaway and scoring on Sittler for a short handed goal to give Regina a 2-1 lead. The next power play would see Wagner muscle his way to the net and lift a shot over Sittler net front for another shortie to make it 3-1 Pats. On the sameee power play, the Pats would score anotherrr short handed marker to give themselves a 4-1 lead after two. The Chiefs power play, which had been sooo good for Spokane, proved to be its’ undoing on this night.
Down by three in the third, Spokane did get the power play to work in their favor. Ty Smith’s shot from the left point hit off the Chiefs Ethan McIndoe and past Hollett for McIndoe’s first goal of the year to bring Spokane within 4-2. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, that was as close as they got, as Regina held Spokane to just 14 shots over the final 40 minutes after Spokane put up 16 in the first 20. Regina got off 26 shots in the final 2 periods despite the Chiefs getting 6 power plays to just 4 for the Pats. It was a classic case of doing a lot of things right for Spokane in this game, but the mistakes made on the Chiefs power play that gave the Pats penalty kill prime scoring chances would end up deciding this game.
The Chiefs don’t get a lot of time to mope about it though, as they are back on the bus tomorrow for a 5 hour ride to Manitoba to face the defending league champion Brandon Wheat Kings. Brandon isn’t off to a flying start, but they whipped up on Lethbridge tonight 6-1; a Hurricane team that handled the Chiefs in Spokane a couple weeks ago. Once again, the team will have to play at its’ best to win against a tough Eastern opponent and I will be very curious to see if that comes to fruition for Spokane.
October 22, 2016 at Brandon
When you play a good enough game to hang even with the top team in the league the night before, the key to becoming a better team is building on that performance and playing the same way the next time on the ice. That was the mission for the Chiefs as they headed East the next night to face the defending WHL champion Brandon Wheat Kings. Spokane had hung tough with the Regina Pats the night before, but could not overcome surrendering 3 short handed goals in the second period in a 4-2 loss. Brandon was coming off a 6-1 win at home the night before over Lethbridge, so the Chiefs had to feel they were going from the frying pan to the fire on this Saturday evening.
Saturday was a cold, grey day in Regina as the team headed to Manitoba. After a lunch outside of the province, the Chiefs headed into Manitoba, where the skies opened up and rain poured down into Brandon. It felt like the rain kept coming down on the Chiefs in the rink too, as Ty Lewis blew by a Chiefs defenseman and his backhanded shot hit the stick of another. The puck waffled over goalie Dawson Weatherill and into the net just 3:39 into the game to give the Wheat Kings a 1-0 lead. Spokane would get several chances to equalize in the period, with none better than Keanu Yamamoto’s back hand net front that clanked off the cross bar late in the period that would have tied the game. Instead, the Chiefs headed to the intermission down by one despite outshooting Brandon 14-12 in the period.
Spokane killed off the Wheaties first power play of the night over the first 31 seconds of the second period, but just 2 seconds after the penalty kill, Lewis would get a rebound net front and score his second of the night to put Brandon up 2-0. The very next shift, the Chiefs lost a puck battle in their zone…a common theme on the night…and Connor Gutenberg scored net front just 1:05 into the second to make it 3-0 Wheat Kings. That goal spelled the end of the night for Weatherill and Jayden Sittler took over in net. Lewis would complete a hat trick with a power play goal late in the second after a net front scramble and Brandon would take a 4-0 lead. The Chiefs had a chance to get on the board late in the period on the power play, but just like they did the night before in Regina, the team coughed up a short handed goal instead as Reid Duke scored in the final two minutes of the period to cap a 4 goal second and give the Wheat Kings a commanding 5-0 lead after two.
The competitive phase of this contest ended at that point for Spokane. The Chiefs would out shoot Brandon 10-7 in the third, but would give up yet another short handed marker in the period when Gutenberg scored his second of the night with a shot from the right wing to cap off a 6-0 win. It marked the first time this season the Chiefs had been shut out, but an even more disturbing trend is the team giving up 5 short handed goals in two nights. It takes some teams monthsss to give up that many short handed goals.
Spokane has now been outscored 10-2, with half the goals coming while the Chiefs have been on a man advantage. Thank goodness the team gets two days off to try and figure things out. One thing I can say is that this team has little margin for error. If everyone isn’t on the same page and giving maximum effort, the team’s mistakes will cost itself games more often than not. There isn’t enough talent on this club to overcome an average effort on the ice. Thattt has become very apparent after 11 games. Now the club will get a chance to re-group before heading to Moose Jaw on Tuesday. Let’s hope the light bulb goes then, or the 4 games in 5 nights stretch that will be played next week will be a longggg one.
October 25, 2016 at Moose Jaw
The Eastern swing had started anything but ideal for the Chiefs, as the team had found itself going 0-2 and getting outscored 10-2. Spokane had also coughed up 5 short handed goals…five!…in that time, and the tough part of the journey was just beginning as the team started up a four games in five nights stretch on Tuesday in Moose Jaw. The Chiefs had two days off after getting shut out in Brandon on Saturday, and the club had a chance to bond and do some team building in Regina as they got ready for the 45 minute journey down Highway 1 to Moose Jaw.
The Warriors had won 3 straight and were an impressive 4-1-1 at home this season. The match up would also be the first time the Chiefs would face their former teammate Matt Sozanski after his off season trade to Moose Jaw after three seasons in Spokane. It didn’t take long for Sozanski to make an impact in the game as his pass net front hit off the leg of teammate Brett Howden and into the net just 14 seconds into the game to give the Warriors a quick 1-0 lead. The lead would hold up after one as the Chiefs were out shot 9-6 in the period despite getting 6 minutes of power play time.
The second period would be a turnaround for Spokane and how. The Chiefs jumped out just 26 seconds into the stanza when defenseman Jeff Faith had a shot blocked and then grabbed his own rebound and snapped home his first goal of his career to tie the game at one. Spokane came right back when Hudson Elyniuk put one through the five hole of Warriors goalie Zach Sawchenko at 1:08 to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead. Spokane would strike again at 3:25 when Kailer Yamamoto scored his team high 8th of the season on a back hander to put the Chiefs up 3-1. Moose Jaw would score just 14 seconds later though after Spokane turned the puck over in front of their net as the Warriors cut the lead to 3-2 after two periods.
Spokane would come out and play their best period of the game in the third, as Jaret Anderson-Dolan fed an open Keanu Yamamoto net front only 46 seconds into the period to put the Chiefs back up 2 at 4-2. Tanner Wishnowski would net his first goal as a Chief with a tip of a Jordan Henderson shot at 1:27 to give Spokane a 5-2 advantage. Elyniuk would cap a two goal, three point performance with a power play goal on some nifty tic-tac-toe passing from Kailer Yamamoto and Tyson Helgesen at 11:19 to wrap up an impressive 6-2 victory. Spokane out shot Moose Jaw 17-6 in the third, and 31-21 in the contest.
It was a great comeback from a disappointing start to the road trip, as the team scored more goals on this night than they had the previous three games combined. Jayden Sittler picked up his second win as a Chief with a rock solid performance, turning away 19 Warriors shots. It was nice to get on the bus with a group that was relaxed and enjoying a win for the first time too. The team headed North to Saskatoon right after the game to get ready for their battle with the Blades the next night. There’s no time to celebrate, as it’s right back to the grindstone tomorrow. Hopefully the team will come out with the same structure to their team game that they showed tonight in Moose Jaw.
October 26, 2016 at Saskatoon
There wasn’t a whole lot of time to celebrate the Chiefs first win of the Eastern Division road trip in Moose Jaw, as the team boarded the bus right after the game and headed North to Saskatoon to face the Blades the next night. The team got to the hotel shortly before 2am and were up and at ’em with a 9:30am breakfast. The temperatures continue to be chilly in Saskatchewan, but with the sun actually coming out today, things warmed into the lower 50’s…which is a greattt contrast to the team’s last journey here to Saskatoon in February of 2015. Spokane has enjoyed some nice success against the Blades, winning six straight since the Chiefs last loss back in January 2010.
Spokane was hoping to continue their good play from the night before in Moose Jaw and the Chiefs would get off to a good start on the scoreboard. The Chiefs would convert their first power play chance of the game as Ethan McIndoe scored on a rebound of a Keanu Yamamoto shot at 10:43 of the first period to give Spokane a 1-0 lead after one. Spokane would come out in the second and take a 2-0 lead when Trent Huitema scored his first career goal on a shot from the right blue line at 3:07 of the period. Hudson Elyniuk then took the puck behind the Blades net and hit an open Kailer Yamamoto net front. Yamamoto would score on his own rebound for his team leading 9th of the season at 9:51 to give the Chiefs a 3-0 advantage. Spokane’s penalty kill was overly busy in the period as well, as the team killed off six..count ’em..six! Saskatoon power plays in the second. The Blades would break through after a failed power play when Gage Ramsey scored on a rebound at 17:01 to cut the Chiefs lead to 3-1 after two.
The two teams would be on a 4 on 4 in the first minute of the third period when Spokane would strike again. Curtis Miske came down the left wing and fed a perfect pass to an open Yamamoto net front 42 seconds into the period to give the Chiefs a 4-1 lead. The goal ignited Spokane as the Chiefs would get on the board again at 2:17. Taylor Ross took a Jordan Henderson pass and went up ice in the Blades zone. Ross would hit Riley McKay with a great feed going to the net, and McKay would score his first career goal to the far post as the Chiefs had a 5-1 advantage. Saskatoon would cut the lead to 5-2 when former Chief Kolten Olynek snapped home a shot from the right circle at 4:53. Spokane would cap the scoring when Ross picked up his second assist on the night with a perfect pass to Pavel Kousal, who fired home his third goal at 9:43 to cap off a 6-2 win. McKay also picked up an assist, his first in his Chiefs career, as the team put up 6 goals for the second straight game.
Spokane would go 1-2 on the power play, but the penalty kill was the difference maker for the Chiefs as the team killed off all 9 Saskatoon power play chances. I’ve called Chiefs games for 15 years, and I can’t recall a game where Spokane went perfect on 9 PK’s in one contest. I can recall 7 and 8, but never 9. Spokane has only given up 1 power play goal in 22 chances on the Eastern trip as the team has gone from 18th in the league on the PK to 8th. Dawson Weatherill was solid in net, turning away 2 breakaways on his way to turning aside 28 Blades shots in picking up his third win of the season. Spokane put up 30 shots for the second straight game and is starting to get the secondary scoring they need to be successful. Now the key will be to keep the same type of game for the rest of the trip, as the team will now get a day off before heading to Prince Albert and Swift Current over the weekend. One thing I do know for sure..the team sure looks a lot better now than they did after the games last weekend.
October 28. 2016 at Prince Albert
The Eastern road trip was taking a turn for the better after the Chiefs picked up two straight wins in Moose Jaw and Saskatoon on back to back nights. The team got a chance to catch its’ breath and relax with a short practice day on Thursday in Saskatoon before heading into the home stretch of the journey. The weather in Saskatoon was cloudy..anddd colddd. Temperatures were around freezing with the highs only hitting in the low 40’s. That just tells me that snow is around the corner and it’s time to head home!
Spokane would start into the final weekend with an hour and a half journey up Highway 11 to Prince Ali bert to face the Raiders. The Chiefs had not had a lot of success with the Raiders in recent years, having lost three straight since winning at P.A. in the 2012-13 season. Spokane would see a familiar face on the Raider bench, as former Chiefs captain Brandin Cote was in his first season as an assistant coach. It was great to see Brandin, who has played more games in a Chiefs sweater than any player in franchise history.
As for the game, it was a quick moving first period, as just 5 players were penalized, and scoring chances were limited. Spokane failed to score on 7 shots while Chiefs netminder Jayden Sittler turned back all 4 shots he faced in the first. The Chiefs would break through in the second as Ethan McIndoe scored on a rebound of a Hayden Ostir shot net front 3:06 to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. McIndoe has been excellent on the trip back to his home province as the goal was his third in 5 games. The Chiefs would extend the lead at 5:25 when another Saskatchewan product, Jeff Faith, scored his second of the trip to make it 2-0 Spokane. Kailer Yamamoto then made a greattt play by laying out for the puck and swiping it with his stick to Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who scored his fifth of the year at 10:34 to give the Chiefs a 3-0 lead. Spokane would keep that lead after the Raiders scored a goal at the buzzer from the blue line, but after review, the goal was waved off after it crossed the line after the clock hit zero.
It turned out to be a good break for Spokane, as Prince Albert, who had scored just 5 power play goals all season, tallied on the man advantage at 11:08 of the third period to cut the lead to 3-1. Before the P.A. announcer had a chance to announce the goal, Hudson Elyniuk swung the game in the Chiefs favor once again, as he stole the puck and walked in on Raiders goalie Nic Sanders and scored 14 seconds after Prince Albert’s goal to put Spokane back up by 3 at 4-1. Prince Albert would cap the scoring with another power play goal with 13 seconds left, but the win was secured as the Chiefs made it 3 in a row in the East with a 4-2 victory.
The team wasn’t as sharp in the third period as they had been in the previous two wins, and giving up 2 power play goals to a team that had scored only 5 all season wasn’t all that great, but the team has rebounded nicely after dropping the first 2 games by a combined 10-2 margin. Now the team has outscored their opponents 18-6 in the three game win streak and will now hope to finish off the trip on a high note as the Chiefs get on the bus for a middle of the night arrival in Swift Current. The Broncos lost to Seattle 2-1 tonight, so they will be ready to get some payback against the U.S. Division when the Chiefs hit the ice tomorrow. Let’s hope the Chiefs come out ready to go and head back to Spokane on a winning streak.
October 29, 2016 at Swift Current
The saying goes that ‘All good things must come to an end’, and I don’t know if the Chiefs road trip through the East Division would qualify under that heading, but things have gone well for the team over the last 4 days, as Spokane had picked up 3 straight wins. As the team finished up the trip in Swift Current Saturday, there was no doubt that everyone was ready to head home after 11 days on the road, and I just had to wonder how much would be left in the tank for the team after a couple thousand miles on the bus, and several nights of interrupted sleep. Spokane was coming off a nice 4-2 win in Prince Albert the night before, but a long bus ride had the team getting to the hotel in Swift around 3am, so I can tell you that no one was bouncing and ready to go come breakfast the next morning.
The team got as much rest as it could after a couple of small meals, and headed out to face a Broncos team that had lost to Seattle 2-1 the night before at home. In fact, the Thunderbirds were staying in the very same hotel with us before they headed out to Regina Saturday. The Chiefs were hoping for a quick start to get things going in the finale in the East, but Swift would take a 1-0 lead on a goal that quite frankly should have never been allowed. Spokane had just killed off a Broncos power play when the puck came to the Chiefs blue line. The puck sure appeared to cross the blue line, and I even heard a brief whistle. The Chiefs paused thinking the play was over…especially after I found out later the linesman actually said ‘Off’ on the play. During that hesitation, the Broncos Tyler Adams hit Connor Chaulk net front and Chaulk beat Chiefs goalie Dawson Weatherill top shelf to give Swift a 1-0 lead.
The Chiefs did bounce back though, as a steal in the offensive zone by defenseman Evan Fiala in the left circle would lead him to fire the puck on net. The puck snuck through Swift goalie Travis Child at 14:24 of the first to tie the game at one. The goal was Fiala’s first of the season, and you could hear his family and friends through the arena. Just when it appeared the team would head to the intermission all even, Swift Current went on the power play in the final minute of the first. Tyler Steenbergen walked in from the right wing and put a shot on net. Weatherill made the stop, but Lane Pedersen banged home the rebound with just 8 seconds left to give Swift a 2-1 lead after one. Neither team scored in the second as the Chiefs were held to just 6 shots after a 17 shot first stanza.
Spokane would get back on its’ game offensively in the third, as the Chiefs put up 20 shots on Child in goal. The Broncos goalie held firm until midway through. Kailer Yamamoto got the puck net front to Riley McKay, whose shot was stopped by Child. Tanner Wishnowski got to the rebound though and backhanded the puck into the open net at 8:57 to tie the game at two. Wishnowski has been a great pick up for Spokane, doing all the little things in winning puck battles and going to the greasy areas in front of the net. It’s paid off too, as he now has 7 points in his first 7 games with the Chiefs. Spokane had a chance to take the lead in the final 2 minutes of the third as the team went on the power play, but Curtis Miske’s shot clanged off the post and the two teams headed to overtime.
In the OT, Spokane got off 4 shots, but never really challenged Child in net. The team looked gassed though and in the final 30 seconds, a blown defensive assignment left Steenbergen widdeee open down the pipe, and he walked in and shoveled the puck past Weatherill with just 30 seconds left to hand Swift Current the 3-2 overtime victory. It was a disappointing ending to a game in which the Chiefs out shot Swift 47-26. There’s no doubt the team was gassed at the end, as Spokane finished off its 4th game in 5 nights. Getting a point was a real positive though, as the team is now just a point back of Portland for 3rd place in the division. The team finished 3-2-1 through the East, a lotttt better than I expected after a dreadful 0-2 start last weekend. Now it’s back on the bus for one final journey back to Spokane, as the team will arrive mid-Sunday morning. I will be glad to sleep in my own bed…and to see the family again. The team will now play 9 of their 10 games in November at the Spokane Arena. I just hope the club continues to play the same way it has the last 4 games in front of the home fans.
November 23, 2016 at Kamloops
It had felt like weeksss since the Chiefs had been on the road, but the fact was, it had been nearly a month since the team got on the bus and headed out of town. The November schedule had Spokane on the road for just one game out of their 10 in the month. That game would come tonight as the Chiefs made their second and final journey to Kamloops this season. Spokane had played the Blazers at home the previous Saturday to finish up their 6 game homestand. The Chiefs had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes, only to surrender 5 straight goals on their way to a 6-4 loss. To make matters worse, the team lost leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto and forwards Ethan McIndoe and Tanner Wishnowski to injuries. As the team headed North on Tuesday, Spokane had just 19 players on the bus. Spokane added forward Eli Zummack to the roster for Wednesday’s game so they could fill out the 20 player roster for their game with the Blazers.
The Chiefs were taking on a Kamloops team looking for their 4th win in a row, which would be a season high for the Blazers. Much like they did Saturday though, the Chiefs came out firing in the first. Ondrej Najman led a rush up ice, got the puck from Koby Morrisseau, and fired a puck through Kamloops goalie Cole Ingram just 48 seconds into the game to give Spokane an early 1-0 lead. Spokane got their only power play of the period midway through the first, and would convert when Pavel Kousal got the puck between the circles and scored his 6th of the season with just 7 seconds left on the power play to put the Chiefs ahead 2-0. Kamloops would cut the lead in half when Spokane blocked a shot, but the puck went right to Rudolphs Balcers by the right post and he scored into the open net to make it a 2-1 game after one.
Spokane would build on the lead early in the second when Jaret Anderson-Dolan hit Keanu Yamamoto down the left wing. Yamamoto put a back hand pass right to the tape of an open Kousal net front and he put home his second of the night at 5:24 of the second to put the Chiefs ahead 3-1. Kamloops would make it a one goal game midway through the period after a Chiefs turnover put the puck on Garret Pilon’s stick and he scored from the blue line to cut the margin to 3-2 after two. In the third, the Chiefs held Kamloops to just 6 shots as Spokane went a perfect 4 for 4 on the penalty kill on the night after giving up 9 power plays to the Blazers in the previous meeting.
The Chiefs came away with their first win over Kamloops after 7 straight losses with a 3-2 victory. The win was a huge bounce back for Spokane after their disappointing loss to the Blazers at home the game before, and the team now remains tied with Portland for 4th in the division with 23 points, just one back of third place Seattle. The team will now enjoy their Thanksgiving with victory on their plate as they head back to the Spokane Arena to open a 4 game home stand on Friday when Vancouver comes to town. Hopefully the team will heal up by the weekend, and start up a win streak for the home fans. In the meantime, I want to wish everyone in Chiefs land a very Happy Thanksgiving!
December 3, 2016 at Tri City
After playing 9 of 10 games at home in the month of November, and coming off a 4 game home stand, the Chiefs got back on the bus for the first time since the day before Thanksgiving as they headed down Highway 395 to take on the arch rival Tri City Americans. Spokane was banged up, as the team was down 5 forwards on the injured list, including their leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto. The Chiefs were coming off a 2-1 overtime win over Kelowna the night before, while the Americans had suffered a 5-2 home loss to Portland. Spokane had lost their last meeting with Tri, falling at the Spokane Arena in overtime 5-4 back on November 5th. The Chiefs surrendered the tying goal with just 6 seconds left before losing in the first minute of the OT.
Spokane hoped to turn that result around on Saturday. The drive was actually pretty pleasant as the cloudy conditions in the Spokane area turned to partly cloudy with some sun around Ritzville. The team arrived earlier than normal, giving me a chance to visit with some old friends before the game. Once the game started, the Chiefs came out and took the early lead as Ethan McIndoe finished off a 2 on 1 with a shot from the left side that went inside the far post at 8:07 to give the Chiefs a 1-0 advantage. Tri City would get all 3 power play chances in the first and would convert their second midway through the period on a Tyler Sandhu shot from between the circles to tie the game at one. The Chiefs had to feel good getting out of the first tied at one as the Americans out shot Spokane 11-3 in the period.
Tri City came out on their first shift of the second period and set the tone as they pressured the Chiefs defensively. The Americans broke through on the power play at 3:03 when Jordan Topping, in his first game of the season off the injured list, scored under the bar from between the circles to make it 2-1 Tri. The Ams then extended the lead when Morgan Geekie hit an open Juuso Vallimaki net front at 6:52 to put Tri City up 3-1. The Chiefs were in danger of getting blown out but McIndoe picked off a Dylan Coughlin pass and snapped home his second of the night at 9:59 to get the Chiefs back within 3-2.
Unfortunately, Spokane would have a defensive break down just 33 seconds later as Kyle Olson was left widee open by the right post and his goal would give Tri City a 4-2 lead. The Chiefs would claw back to within 4-3 on a power play goal from Keanu Yamamoto at 13:21. It was the 4th straight game with a goal for Yamamoto, and his 8th straight game with a point. Tri City would counter again though as Nolan Yaremko took a pass in the right circle and snapped a shot top shelf far side over goalie Jayden Sittler to put the Ams back up two at 5-3. Spokane came right back though just over 2 minutes later as Pavel Kousal scored net front at 17:20 to cut the margin to 5-4 after two periods.
As open offensively, or loose defensively depending on your viewpoint, as the second period was, the third tightened up defensively. Neither team got much going until Tri City won a puck battle off the wall late in the period and the puck went to an open Morgan Geekie net front. His goal at 16:19 gave the Americans a 6-4 lead. Just when it looked like the game was over for the Chiefs, Evan Fiala took a pass on the right wing and shelfed his second goal of the season at 17:16 to bring Spokane within 6-5. The Chiefs would pull goalie Jayden Sittler in the final minute and a half, but would fail to get the equalizer, as the team fell to Tri City for the 3rd time in 4 meetings this season.
Costly defensive mistakes in coverage cost the team when they were making comebacks throughout the game. As hard as some players played, there were others that were soft defensively. With the injuries the team is trying to play through right now, the Chiefs need allll 18 guys skating to have a chance to win. Having just 14 or 15 playing well won’t cut it. Spokane is extremely young right now, with two 16 year olds on the back end and another up front. Hopefully the team can figure themselves out in the remaining 6 games before the Christmas break and get things rolling for the second half before its’ too late to make a playoff run.
December 10th, 2016 at Vancouver
There is nothing…and I repeat…nothing that I look less forward to than an all night drive through a snow storm. I’ve done it more times than I can remember, and they don’t get any easier. The only thing I know that was going to be a positive out of this road trip to Vancouver after the game at home against Kootenay Friday was I wasn’t going to have to do the driving. Our bus driver KJ more than earned his pay check on this journey as the team started a three game road trip with a game at Vancouver Saturday. One thing to keep in mind. This trip usually takes 7 hours with the border crossing to begin with, but when you throw in a snow storm across the entire state of Washington, that journey soon turns into 8 1/2 hours. The roads were treacherous from Ritzville to Moses Lake and stretches of I-90 looked like a plow had never touched it. We had to chain up a couple times from Ellensburg through Snoqualmie Pass, and it even snowed in Vancouver. All told, we got to our hotel in Langley for tonight’s game with the Giants at 7:30am.
Needless to say, I skipped the 10:30am breakfast and slept till close to noon. The weather in Langley, the new home of the Giants was rainy and miserable all day, so I was looking forward to seeing the Giants new home, the Langley Events Center. It was Spokane’s first trip since the Giants left the PNE Coliseum after last season. I was impressed with the new rink, as it was about a 5,000 seat arena, but with plenty of suites and a comfortable atmosphere. And compared to the old barn, the lighting was a millionnnn times better, so a big thumbs up in that department. The Chiefs were coming off a last minute win the night before against Kootenay, while the Giants suffered a tough home loss in a shootout to Everett the evening previous. The Chiefs knew Van would come ready for this one, especially after the way Spokane embarrassed the Giants in Spokane a couple weeks earlier in a 10-1 spanking in the two teams previous meeting.
The first period was tight and even as each team put up 9 shots and failed to score on one power play apiece. The Chiefs would break through with the game’s first tally when Taylor Ross scored on a one timer from the left circle after Dalton Hamaliuk’s shot off the end wall bounced right back out front. Spokane would add to the lead in the second when Tyson Helgesen scored from the left wing as Ross’ screen out front shielded Vancouver goalie Ryan Kubic to make it 2-0 Chiefs. Vancouver would get right back in the game though, as the Giants would score on back to back power plays late in the second to knot the game up at 2. Just when it looked like Vancouver would take that momentum to the third, the Chiefs got their only power play chance of the period in the final 2 minutes. Spokane would capitalize as Jaret Anderson-Dolan took a Keanu Yamamoto pass up the left wing and hit a wide open Hudson Elyniuk heading to the net. Elyniuk slipped the puck through the pads of Kubic to score the power play goal with just 1:06 left in the period to give Spokane a 3-2 lead after two. With the assist, Yamamoto extended his points scoring streak to 11 in a row.
The goal was a huge boost for Spokane as the Chiefs would add to the lead midway through the third. Ondrej Najman won the puck behind the Vancouver net and slipped a perfect pass net front to an open Eli Zummack. Zummack put home a huge insurance goal midway through the period to make it a 4-2 game. Just when it looked like Spokane was in control though, the Chiefs took a 5 minute major penalty to put the Giants on the man advantage. After struggling on the penalty kill previously, the team stepped up as they killed off the 5 minute Vancouver power play to keep the two goal lead. The Chiefs would put the game away for good when Najman went on a odd man rush with Kailer Yamamoto and fed Yamamoto for his team leading 19th goal of the season late in the third to put away a 5-2 victory.
The win was Spokane’s 9th straight over the Giants since the 2012-13 season, and gave the Chiefs the season sweep of the series with Vancouver. The Chiefs are now 3 points back of 4th place Seattle with a chance to move within one with a win at Everett tomorrow. It will be a tough road to hoe for Spokane though as they will be playing their third game in three nights against an Everett team that just lost in Portland. The Silvertips are always tough at home and with a 4pm puck drop, there will not be a lot of rest for the boys to acquire. Hopefully the wins of the last two days will carry over with the team and a successful weekend can be put to rest.
December 11th, 2016 at Everett
With two straight wins over the weekend, the Chiefs were hoping to make it 3 for 3 as they headed to Everett to face off against the division leading Silvertips. Spokane had success against the Tips, winning 2 of the previous 3 match-ups with Everett. All of those games had taken place at the Spokane Arena, as the Chiefs played their first game on the Silvertips home ice this season. Getting off to a good start is always a key in Everett, as the Tips were one of the top home teams in the league, going 13-2-1 thus far this season.
The team would see a former teammate come back to haunt them as Dominic Zwerger scored just 3:14 into the game on a shot from the goal line that slid through the pads of goalie Jayden Sittler to put the Silvertips up 1-0 after one. Zwerger wasn’t done as he wristed a shot past Sittler on the inside post on the power play only 1:27 into the second period to make it 2-0 Everett. Just when it looked like the game would get away from Spokane, Jaret Anderson-Dolan took a Taylor Ross pass from the right wall net front and tapped home his 15th goal of the year at 4:25 to bring the Chiefs within 2-1. The Silvertips would re-take a two goal lead though when Graham Miller’s shot from the blue line would get through Sittler and fall behind the goaltender and dribble into the net at 9:43 to put Everett up 3-1. That goal would spell the end of the night for Sittler and would lead to Dawson Weatherill taking over in net.
The Chiefs would respond 42 seconds after Miller’s goal as Anderson-Dolan took a Kailer Yamamoto pass off the right post and lifted a back hand under the cross bar for his second of the night to get Spokane within 3-2. The goal was Anderson-Dolan’s 6th in his last 4 games as the Chiefs stayed within striking distance heading to the third. Everett would start the third by converting their second power play of the night on a rebound from Riley Sutter from the left side of Weatherill at 3:44 to go back up 2 at 4-2. The Chiefs kept coming back though as Hudson Elyniuk hit Keanu Yamamoto on the right wing and Yamamoto scored his 13th of the year at 7:47 to bring the Chiefs back within 4-3. The goal extended Yamamoto’s point scoring streak to 12 straight.
Despite getting back within 1, the Chiefs didn’t have enough left in the tank to pull back even. After pulling Weatherill from goal, Spokane turned the puck over in the Everett zone, and Connor Dewar scored past Kailer Yamamoto at mid-ice with 1:03 left to seal a 5-3 Everett win. The Chiefs are now even with Everett in the season series at 2-2. This was a game that Spokane failed to get good enough goal tending and as a result, the penalty kill suffered again as the Chiefs were just 2-4 on the PK. Spokane has now given up 2 or more power play goals in their last 5 games…which has set them towards the bottom of league on the penalty kill. One thing I know is..the team had better get a lottt better in both areas if they hope to win at Seattle on Tuesday. Or any other game coming up in their season. At least the team gets to spend a day off in Seattle Monday, so the rest should help the club mentally and physically.
December 13th, 2016 at Seattle
It isn’t very often the Chiefs enjoy an off day in Seattle, as trips to the Emerald City are usually done the day of or at the very least, arriving the night before. Having played a game in Everett Sunday, the team got the chance to kick back and relax for a Tuesday contest in Kent against a Thunderbirds team the Chiefs were chasing for the final playoff spot in the West. Seattle was 3 points up on Spokane in the standings, and with the Chiefs looking at just two games remaining in the first half of the season, a win over the T-Birds in regulation would put Spokane right in the thick of the race.
Spokane found out they would be without forward Riley McKay for the next three games, as the league handed down a 4 game suspension from his hit Saturday in Vancouver. Having sat out Sunday’s game in Everett, McKay will now be eligible to come back when the Chiefs host Seattle on December 28th. Spokane went with Dawson Weatherill in net, who had played well in relief of Jayden Sittler in Everett, and he had beaten Seattle in the team’s previous trip to Kent. Weatherill and the Chiefs started well in the first, as they held Seattle off the scoreboard in a scoreless first period. Seattle came out ready in the second though, and would score a minute and a half in when Ryan Gropp picked up a puck on the left wing and spotted an open Keegan Kolesaar on the right side. Kolesaar slid the puck under Weatherill’s pad to put Seattle up 1-0. The Chiefs picked up their game though, as the team would out shoot Seattle 13-5 in the period. Spokane would be rewarded when Hayden Ostir took the puck in the left circle and got a shot on Seattle goalie Rylan Toth. Toth made the save, but the rebound came right to Ethan McIndoe, who slid a backhander through the pads midway through the period to tie the game at one after two.
Weatherill then took over the game in the third. Seattle came out with early energy, but Weatherill stopped every Thunderbirds shot, keeping the game even. Spokane would get a power play chance midway through the period when Kolesaar got a checking to the head minor, and the Chiefs would cash in on their 5th power play chance of the game. Keanu Yamamoto got a puck from his brother Kailer on the right wall, and found an open Jaret Anderson-Dolan between the circles. Anderson-Dolan snapped home his 17th of the season, and his 7th in his last 5 games, to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead. The assist by Keanu extended his points scoring streak to 13 straight, the longest by a Chief this season. Seattle pulled Toth from goal in the final minute and a half, but Kailer Yamamoto blocked an Ethan Bear shot and fired home his team leading 20th of the year with .1 second left to wrap up the Chiefs second straight 3-1 win in Seattle.
It was a huge win for Spokane, as the team is now just one point back of Seattle for the final playoff spot in the West. With both Tri City and Portland losing tonight, the Chiefs gained ground on both the second place Americans and third place Winterhawks as Spokane is 7 back of Tri and only 3 behind Portland. The victory will also give a boost for a team with just one game left in the first half, as the Chiefs will head home to host the top team in the West, Prince George, on Saturday night at the Arena. Hopefully the team will play as well defensively as they did tonight, and they will need to against a potent Cougars team. Not only was the win nice in Seattle, but the roads are a hundreddd times better going over the mountains. Some cold weather awaits the boys at home, but the bus is plentyyy warm tonight.
December 27th, 2016 at Seattle
The Christmas Break is alwayssss welcomed by yours truly. It’s a chance to refresh the mind and re-charge the batteries for the second half of the season. For the Chiefs, it was an opportunity to not only do that, but heal up injury wise after Spokane had a roster look like a MASH unit for most of the first half. The team started the second half in Seattle against the team directly in front of them for the final playoff spot in the West. The Chiefs were also a bit different looking unit going in as well. After the trade of Markson Bechtold and Evan Fiala to Saskatoon, Spokane received forward Wyatt Sloboshan and defenseman Nolan Reid. The two played their first games against Prince George in the final game of the first half. When the break was over though, Sloboshan informed the Chiefs he would not be returning to Spokane to finish out the year. With the team already short up front due to injury, it was a big blow to Spokane’s depth.
Spokane had a 20 year old opening with the trade of Bechtold, so the team picked up forward Alex Mowbray. Mowbray had played three years in Medicine Hat before playing in Camrose this season. The Chiefs will also be without Koby Morriseau for the rest of the year as he heals up from his injury in Seattle on the team’s last trip. When he returns, he’ll stay in Canada to play Junior A in Alberta. The team did get good news as forward Curtis Miske returned from the injured list, so the depth up front did improve going into a key game against the Thunderbirds. The home team had lost every meeting so far in the previous three contests, with Spokane winning both previous games in Kent by identical 3-1 scores.
The Chiefs headed over the morning of the game, anticipating lousy weather in the mountains. Fortunately for the team, the roads were pretty manageable, and team actually arrived 45 minutes earlier than normal. Spokane started pretty well in the game too, as the line with Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Kailer Yamamoto and Pavel Kousal controlled the puck early. Unfortunately, it was Seattle that got on the board first as Ethan Bear’s shot from the point eluded the glove of goalie Dawson Weatherill midway through the first to make it 1-0 Thunderbirds. It was a soft goal to start the game, but Spokane bounced back later in the period as Yamamoto put a pass from behind the Seattle net and found Anderson-Dolan between the circles. Anderson-Dolan snapped home his 18th of the season with less than 5 minutes left in the period to tie the game at one after the first. It was his 7th straight game with a point and Yamamoto’s assist was his 7th straight game with a helper.
Seattle controlled the game offensively in the second and would get the go ahead goal early in the period when Nolan Volcan blew by the Chiefs defense on the left wing and hit an open Scott Eansor on the left side. Eansor beat Weatherill on the far side to give the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead after two. Spokane would rebound in the third though as they dominated the puck in the Seattle zone, outshooting the T-Birds 20-5 in the period. The Chiefs pulled even at two when Tyson Helgesen’s shot from the left side hit a Seattle defender and beat Seattle goalie Rylan Toth midway through the period. Less than 2 minutes later though, a shot from the Chiefs blue line by Bear would be knocked down by Weatherill and Sami Moilanen would put the rebound in the net to score the eventual game winner.
Spokane had chances to tie as Keanu Yamamoto missed an open net on a rebound later in the period, and the Chiefs pulled Weatherill in the final minute and a half, but failed to beat Toth. The T-Birds goalie put up 41 saves as the Chiefs out shot Seattle 43-24, but fell 3-2. It was a tough loss to swallow, as Spokane deserved a better fate, but now find themselves 5 points back of Seattle for the final playoff berth in the West. It also sets up Spokane for a must win tomorrow night at home when they host Seattle. A loss in regulation again and I would dare say the Chiefs playoff chances would be less than slim with a grinding schedule coming up. Let’s hope Spokane gets some better puck luck and a good home crowd to lift the team to a must win.
December 31st, 2016 at Tri City
The year 2016 closed out for the Chiefs as it has for the 20 plus years previous, with a trip to the Tri Cities to take on the Americans in the two teams annual New Year’s Eve match up. The two teams had met the night before in Spokane and Tri used a 3 goal third period to break open a 3-2 contest on their way to a 6-3 victory. The Americans had now won 4 of the first 5 meetings with the Chiefs and Spokane now found themselves 4 points back of Seattle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference coming into the final day of 2016.
Spokane would go with goalie Jayden Sittler on this night after Dawson Weatherill had taken the loss the night before. Sittler had won his last outing with an overtime win over Seattle on Wednesday and the Chiefs would stake him to an early lead in this one. Ondrej Najman got the puck inside the left blue line and let go of a shot that was tipped by Riley McKay for his second goal of the season, and Spokane had a 1-0 lead 13:32 into the game. The lead would hold up after one as the Chiefs out shot Tri City 10-6 in the period in a good solid road outing in the first 20 minutes of action.
The second period would see Spokane get their first penalties of the contest, as Tri City would take advantage with a goal on their first power play, as Tyler Sandhu’s shot hit off a Chiefs defenseman and in at 8:46 of the second to even the game at one after two periods. Spokane had a goldennnn chance to take the lead late in the period when Keanu Yamamoto was robbed by the pad of Tri City goalie Rylan Parenteau to keep the game tied at one.
Spokane failed to convert a power play chance midway through the third to take the lead, and Tri City would go on a rush shortly after to take the lead for good. The Americans Vladislav Lukin got open net front and shoveled the puck just under the skate of Sittler inside the left post at 12:38 to put Tri City ahead 2-1. Spokane would take back to back penalties late in the contest, but still had a chance to tie in the final minute. With the Chiefs net empty, Spokane got the puck through the crease on a Kailer Yamamoto pass to an open Hudson Elyniuk on the right wing. With the net open, Elyniuk’s shot hit the side of the netting, ending Spokane’s best chance to draw even. Tri City cleared the puck and Sandhu scored into the empty net for his second power play goal of the night as the Americans defeated the Chiefs for the 5th time in 6 outings 3-1.
It was a game Spokane was in position to win, but the Chiefs got little in offense from their big guns. Kailer Yamamoto’s 9 game point scoring streak came to an end, as Spokane only got a goal from their 4th line of McKay, Najman and Kousal. The Chiefs did hold Tri City’s offense in check for just the second time in 6 contests, but after shutting down the Ams power play the night before, Tri scored 2 of their 3 goals with the man advantage. It was the 5th time in 6 games Tri City had scored 2 or more power play goals in a game against Spokane.
Now the Chiefs are 6 points back of Seattle for the final playoff spot in the West as the team has hit the midway point of the season. Spokane is going to need to find a major run in them if they hope to avoid missing the post season for the first time since the 2005-06 season. As I look at this club right now, it’s going to be an uphill battle. The team lacks depth in scoring offensively, the defense is leaky at the most inopportune times, and the goaltending has been inconsistent at best. With a penalty kill that ranks last in the league, the Chiefs are going to need a major turnaround in a number of areas…and quickly. It doesn’t get any easier as road games to Kelowna and Kootenay lie ahead this week. Let’s hope Spokane finds some scoring soon, or 2017 may start as rocky as 2016 ended.
January 4th, 2017 at Kelowna
After losing a home and home series with Tri City, the Chiefs found themselves 6 points back of Seattle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With the trade deadline looming on January 10th, Spokane made some moves off the ice to help bolster the club on it. On the following Monday after the New Year’s Eve loss in Tri, the team dealt forward Wyatt Sloboshan to Regina for forwards Riley Woods and Rykr Cole. This was a great deal for Spokane as Sloboshan, who had played just one game since being acquired from Saskatoon, had told the Chiefs he would not be reporting back to the team. Spokane was now able to get two forwards that will help with the depth of the club and hopefully add some much needed scoring punch. That same day, the club also dealt forward Curtis Miske to Prince Albert for a 4th round pick in the 2018 draft.
With these deals, Spokane got a bit younger, but also added a new look to a club that desperately needed it. When you’re in 9th place out of 10 teams in your conference, the current lineup is not cutting it. With the new forwards joining Alex Mowbray, who was signed last week, the Chiefs headed out on a two game road trip through British Columbia as they took on Kelowna and Kootenay in the start of a 4 games in 5 nights trek for the second straight week. First up were the Rockets, who were without three of their top 4 forwards, as they were away at the World Junior Tournament. It should come as some comfort to fans in Spokane that as cold as it was in the Lilac City, the temps in Kelowna were below zero at night the night before the two teams squared off.
It was a clear, sunny day in Kelowna, but still bitter cold on game day. I was able to pass the day away by watching the U.S.-Russia semi-final match up in the World Juniors. All I can say is…what a game! I was just glad I had the time to watch a classic. It also got me fired up to see what the Chiefs would do in their encounter with the Rockets as Spokane welcomed Cole and Woods to the lineup. The first period was about as long and dull of a period of hockey as I’ve witnessed in a while. Neither team created a serious scoring chance while putting up 10 shots apiece in the period as the two teams headed to the second scoreless. Spokane had a 5 on 3 power play for 52 seconds but failed to produce a goal.
In the second period though, Spokane would break through on their first power play of the stanza, as Kailer Yamamoto took a Hudson Elyniuk pass and moved into the right circle and snapped home his team leading 23rd of the year; beating Kelowna goalie Michael Herringer to the far post to give the Chiefs the early 1-0 lead. Just 35 seconds later, Tyson Helgesen got the puck on the far wall from Eli Zummack and fired home his 6th goal of the year to put the Chiefs up 2-0. Jayden Sittler made that lead stand up until just 1:59 left in the period, when the Rockets Rodney Southam pushed the puck inside the right post past Sittler to cut the Chiefs lead to 2-1 after two periods.
Spokane would hold steady through most of the third, as the Chiefs penalty kill turned aside a Kelowna power play midway through the period to keep the one goal lead. The Rockets would pull even though as they out skated Spokane into the Chiefs zone off a rush, and Riley Stadel fired home a shot top shelf over Sittler at 16:17 to even the game at two. That goal would send the game to overtime, as Sittler had to make a couple of hugeee saves late in regulation to preserve at least a point. In the overtime, the two teams played pretty conservatively, but Spokane would snap the deadlock late in OT. Jaret Anderson-Dolan took the puck below the goal line and fed an open Riley Woods between the circles. Woods, in his first game in a Chiefs uniform, would fire home his first goal for Spokane at 3:19 of overtime to lift the team to its’ second straight win over Kelowna in overtime this season.
It turned out to be a huge two points for the Chiefs, as Vancouver also won tonight, so Spokane stays 4 points up on the Giants for 9th in the West, and the team now moves within 4 points of Seattle for the 8th and final playoff berth in the conference. Woods and Cole both had solid debuts for the Chiefs, and Woods has got to feel great with a major contribution his first game out. Sittler had perhaps his best game of the season, as his efforts were the major reason Spokane came out with 2 points. Now the team hopes to build off this win as they head to Cranbrook tomorrow on the 6 hour drive for Friday’s game with the Kootenay Ice. Let’s hope the team gets a little more offense going and the same type of goaltending on Friday.
January 6th, 2017 at Kootenay
The New Year had started well for the Chiefs with an overtime win in Kelowna, so now the team was hoping to keep things rolling as they headed down the Crowsnest Highway in British Columbia to Cranbrook to take on the Kootenay Ice. The team got a day off between games, and I had the chance to not take the bus, as I was elected to drive Rykr Cole’s car to Cranbrook. Cole and his Regina teammate Riley Woods had each driven from Saskatchewan to join the team, so myself and trainer Todd Daniels got to experience the scenic drive on a sunny day while the boys rode the bus with the team.
After arriving in Cranbrook, the team attended a league meeting while the staff headed out to watch the World Junior final between the U.S. and Canada. It was a terrificcc game, and one I’m so glad I had the chance to watch. Just watching the highlights would not have done it justice. The World Junior tourney is a muchhhhh bigger deal in Canada than here in the U.S. You don’t see families heading out en masse to watch this tournament in the States, but you certainly do in the Great White North. The level of play was exceptional and the two teams were extremelyyy even, as they were still tied after a 20 minute overtime. The shootout, which the U.S. won 1-0, is an extremelyyyy poor way to end a title game. Assistant Coach Scott Burt made the suggestion, and I think it’s a greattt one, why not play the first OT as a 5 on 5 20 minute period, which they did. Thennn have the teams play 4 on 4 for 10 minutes…then 3 on 3 for 5…thennn go to a shootout. I would think the chances of a shootout occurring will be extremelyyy slim…and you get a winner without a glorified skills competition. Good idea Burty! Now if we can just get that through the International Hockey Federation.
As for the Chiefs, the team went through the usual prep for Friday’s tilt with Kootenay. The Ice had been off since the previous Friday, a 4-1 win at Red Deer. Kootenay had won 2 of 3 and had played well in the second half of the season after a very rough start in the first half. These two teams always seem to battle to close games, and Spokane knew they were in for another one tonight. In the very first period, the Chiefs would come out and out shoot the Ice 15-10, but find themselves down 1-0. After an errant pass back to the blue line while on the attack, the Ice chipped the puck up the left wing to leading scorer Zak Zborosky. Zborosky beat the Chiefs down the ice and beat goalie Jayden Sittler midway through the period to give Kootenay a 1-0 lead. Meanwhile, Ice goalie Payton Lee was shutting down everything being thrown at him.
Spokane would finally break through in a second period in which they out shot the Ice 20-4. Hudson Elyniuk took a Riley Woods pass toward the right blue line, turned and fired a shot on net. Kailer Yamamoto made a brilliant tip from a shot in mid air and put it past Lee at 7:55 of the period to tie the game at one. It was the only goal the Chiefs would manage in the second, but after a 35-14 shot advantage through two, all Spokane had to do was maintain that advantage in the third, and the team stood a very good chance of coming out with their second straight win.
Kootenay would go on the power play in the third with a chance to take the lead. The Chiefs would break the tie though, as Jaret Anderson-Dolan made a great play in the neutral zone. He dove out and swiped the puck ahead to Hudson Elyniuk, who got past the Kootenay defense and beat Lee on the partial breakaway for his 4th shorthanded goal of the year at 4:07 of the period to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead. Elyniuk was far from done. Midway through the third, he came down the left wing on a rush and hit an open Yamamoto net front and the Chiefs leading scorer put home his second of the night and team leading 25th of the season at 9:24 to give Spokane a 3-1 advantage. Elyniuk would then cap the scoring with an empty net goal from Yamamoto in the final 3 minutes to seal a 4-1 win.
Spokane was outstanding offensively, generating 50 shots on the night. Only a brilliant performance by Lee in goal prevented the Chiefs from running away in this one. Elyniuk and Yamamoto combined for every goal and 7 points on the night. Jayden Sittler was solid, as he was rarely tested on 25 shots on the evening. The Chiefs penalty kill was perfect for the second straight game, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Now Spokane will hope to repeat the performance as they head home to host the Ice on Saturday. Seattle comes to town Sunday, so it’s a big weekend for Spokane if they hope to make up ground in the West. If the team can play like they did tonight, they’ll be back in the playoff race in no time.
January 11th, 2017 at Everett
After two good road wins at Kelowna and Kootenay, the Chiefs had returned home to lose two in a row to Kootenay and Seattle. It was a lost opportunity to gain ground on Portland and Seattle, the two teams directly in front of Spokane for the last two playoff berths in the West. As it stood, the Chiefs were now 2 points back of the Winterhawks and 5 back of the Thunderbirds as the Chiefs headed out on a 4 games in 5 nights stretch through the division with games in Everett, Portland and Seattle. Let’s just say this road trip is rather huge if Spokane hopes to make the playoffs in March.
The trip would start at division leading Everett, as the Chiefs would face a Silvertips team missing goalie Carter Hart, and defensemen Noah Juulsen, Aaron Irving, and Lucas Skrumeda. The Chiefs roster was now set as the trade deadline had expired the day before. Spokane made one final deal, sending forward Tanner Wishnowski to Prince George for a draft pick. So the team could now focus on acclimating the new forwards Rykr Cole, Riley Woods, Alex Mowbray and defenseman Nolan Reid into the lineup. After heading out the morning of the game from snowy and cold Spokane, the team arrived 4.5 hours later in green and mild Everett. The nice change in temperature alone left the Chiefs in a good place as Spokane and Everett fought to a scoreless first period.
Spokane had managed just 4 shots in the opening frame, and the lack of offense caught up with the Chiefs in the second, as the lack of puck management led to the Silvertips breaking the scoreless deadlock in the period. A Chiefs turnover down the right wing led to Bradly Goethals of the Tips taking the puck and putting a pass to an open Brandson Hein, who beat goalie Dawson Weatherill just 2:40 into the period to make it 1-0 Silvertips. That goal set Everett in motion and the Chiefs back on their heels. The Tips would extend the lead midway through the period after a face-off win in the Spokane zone, and Connor Dewar fired home a shot from the top of the left circle to give Everett a 2-0 lead after two.
The Chiefs had a chance to get back in the game early in the third when Spokane got their first power play of the contest. Instead of drawing back within one goal though, another turnover at the Everett blue line led to a breakaway by Devon Skoleski, who scored a short handed goal at 5:29 of the period to break the Chiefs back at 3-0. Everett would score a power play goal from the point at 8:55 to blow the game open at 4-0 and then would cap the scoring at 12:36 on a nice feed to Riley Sutter in between the circles to wrap up a 5-0 blowout win. The Chiefs were shut out for just the second time this season, and there’s no question the performance was the worst for the team since that 6-0 blanking at Brandon in October.
There was nothing positive to look at from the Chiefs perspective in this one. The Silvertips were short handed in personnel, and Spokane looked like they expected an easy game. The team’s leading offensive players turned the puck over at an alarming rate, and there was no compete and little passion to the Chiefs game. The result was a just one, as the Silvertips out skated, out hit and just outplayed Spokane in every element of the game. The challenge now will be whether the Chiefs can flush this one and come back with a vengeance against a Winterhawks team that is still 2 points up on Spokane in the race for the final playoff spot in the West. Spokane now gets back to back games in the Rose City, and must get 2 points at the least to not only stay within range, but get some confidence going forward. One thing I do know…if the Chiefs play like they did tonight, the playoffs will be the lasttt thing they’ll have to worry about this season.
January 13th, 2017 at Portland
After the shellacking the Chiefs took in Everett two nights previously, I had full expectations that the team would bounce back the next time they hit the ice in Portland. The shutout loss to the Silvertips was just the second all season, and after their first blanking against Brandon back in October, the Chiefs responded with an impressive 6-3 win at Moose Jaw. With the Chiefs two points back of Portland for the final playoff spot in the West, the team knew they had to come out with a muchhh better effort if they wanted to avoid falling behind by 4 after Friday night.
The team headed down I-5 on Thursday after practicing in Everett. I got a chance to watch the latest Jason Bourne movie on the bus, and since I had watched the previous editions, it was nice to catch up and just relax a little bit. As we headed South, it was apparent that a lottt more snow had fallen on the ground in the Portland than it had in Washington. It was also obvious there wasn’t a lot of the roads plowed in the Rose City either, as the rattling of the ice and snow chunks left on the interstate had the bus shaking like a Southern California earthquake. It was quite apparent as well that several drivers in Portland had never driven in snow as the 10-20 mile per hour driving on some downtown streets left me wondering if it wouldn’t be quicker to walk to the arena for Friday’s game.
As it was, Friday’s frigid temperatures in Portland…and when I say that…it got to all of 29..led me to stay indoors most of the day. It’s still a hell of lot warmer than Spokane, but just cold enough to remind me of what I’m not missing about home. In the game, the Chiefs came out as cold as the temps, as Portland scored on their first power play just 5:03 into the game to take a 1-0 lead. Chiefs goalie Jayden Sittler made the save on an Alex Overhardt shot, but the rebound was scooped by Ryan Hughes below the goal line and he lifted the puck over Sittler to give the Winterhawks the early lead. Spokane would get their first…and it turns out their only power play of the night late in the first period. Ethan McIndoe would deflect a pass from Portland goalie Cole Kehler to his defenseman into the Hawks net at 16:40 to tie the game at one. The joy of tying the game after being out shot 10-1 at one point lasted for all of 13 seconds, as Portland defenseman Brendan De Jong’s shot from the right point beat Sittler to give the Winterhawks a 2-1 edge after one.
That goal set the Chiefs on their heels a bit, and no doubt gave Portland the momentum heading into the second. The Hawks took advantage of some poor defensive coverage from the Chiefs in their own zone as Keegan Iverson found a wide open Skyler McKenzie open net front at 3:03 to put Portland up 3-1. Colton Veloso then got open by the right post as Sittler was down on the ice, and he scored at 9:37 to make it a 4-1 game. Caleb Jones shot from the right point while Portland was on a 4 on 3 power play at 13:28 gave the Hawks their 4th unanswered goal and what looked like a commanding 5-1 lead. The Chiefs would cut the margin to 5-2 as Kailer Yamamoto scored his team leading 26th of the season as he stuffed in the puck at 18:06 to give the Chiefs a little life heading into the third.
There was no question Spokane came out a different team in the third period. The Chiefs would out shoot Portland 16-8 in the third but wouldn’t get on the board until midway through the period when McIndoe scored his second of the night at 11:54 on a rebound net front. The two teams then went on a 4 on 4 after matching minor penalties. Defenseman Nolan Reid scored his first as a Chief, and first of the season, as his shot from the blue line beat Kehler at 13:19 to make it a 5-4 game. Spokane got some good looks the rest of the way, none better than Hudson Elyniuk’s backhand from the left side that ended up going over the net. The Chiefs would pull the goalie in the final minute and a half, but were unable to get a great shot on goal. For the third straight time, Spokane lost to Portland by a goal. The Chiefs went 1-1 on the power play but a dismal 0-2 on the penalty kill.
The loss left the Chiefs 4 points back of Portland for the final playoff spot and has now created a must win mentality for this team. The two teams go back at it tomorrow before the Chiefs head to 3rd place Seattle on Sunday. With the team now on a 4 game losing streak, confidence has got to be waning a little bit for this club. If the team loses the next two, they’ll be 6 back of Portland and possibly 9 back of Seattle. There’s still 2 months left in the season, but when you start falling the equivilant of 3, 4, or 5 games back in the standings, you get to a point where you need to rip off 5 or 6 wins in a row. This team hasn’t won that many consecutively this year, and hasn’t shown signs of doing so. It comes down to this team staying within striking distance before the new faces and young guys find themselves. Time is starting to tick down, and the Chiefs need to get it going, starting tomorrow here in Portland.
January 14th, 2017 at Portland
The playoffs were starting to look a little bleak for the Chiefs after their one goal loss the night before in Portland. The Winterhawks were now 4 points up on Spokane for the final playoff spot and the Hawks had 2 games in hand as the two teams faced off for the second straight night on Saturday. The Chiefs had lost all three games to Portland this season; all of them by one goal. Spokane was in danger of falling back by 6 if they suffered another loss to the Winterhawks. Playing their 3rd game in 4 nights, Spokane was hoping to summon the energy to get back within 2 points of Portland in the standings.
The Chiefs went with goalie Dawson Weatherill in net after he had pitched a shutout in relief in the 5-4 defeat the night before. On a sunny, but cold day, the team relaxed most of the day as they skipped their morning skate. Spokane came out with fresh legs in this one as Riley Woods scored on the Chiefs first shot of the night just 1:24 into the game from the left wing to make it 1-0 Spokane. Portland goalie Cole Kehler mishandled the puck as it hit off of his stick and glove and into the net. It would prove to be a prophetic goal as it turned out. Portland would come right back though and score just 31 seconds later as Skyler McKenzie’s first of the night tied the game at one. Midway through the first, Jaret Anderson-Dolan would come on a rush down the right wing and snap one past Kehler inside the far post at 9:01 to put the Chiefs ahead 2-1. Just 54 seconds later, Keanu Yamamoto snuck one past Kehler after a face off win from Eli Zummack to make it 3-1 Spokane.
The Chiefs scored on 3 of their first 5 shots and that spelled the end of the night for Kehler in goal. Backup goalie Shane Farkas came out in net for the first time this season as the Chiefs carried their two goal lead into the second. Spokane converted their first power play of the second period as Hudson Elyniuk’s shot was tipped by Eli Zummack through the pads to hand Spokane a 4-1 advantage. Just as it looked like the Chiefs would blow this game open, back stormed Portland right back into the game. The Winterhawks scored three goals in just 2:50 to tie the game at 4. Alex Overhardt’s tip on the power play brought Portland within 4-2. Ryan Hughes then netted his third goal in 2 nights to make it a 4-3 contest, and McKenzie stole the puck in the Chiefs zone and backhanded his second of the game through Weatherill’s pads to even the game. Spokane didn’t wilt though, as Keanu Yamamoto drove the puck to the net after a face off win midway through the second, and scored his second of the night at 11:57 of the period to lift Spokane to a 5-4 lead after two.
That goal turned out to be huge for the Chiefs. It put some confidence back in the team and they would carry it over into the third. After killing off a Portland power play, the Chiefs failed to score on a man advantage of their own. After the failed power play though, Spokane went on a 2 on 1 rush as Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored his second of the night of a shot from the left wing at 11:57 of the third to give the Chiefs a huge insurance goal and a 6-4 lead. That goal would turn out to be the game winner, as Portland would get within one on a Cody Glass backhander in the final 2 minutes. The Winterhawks would get a power play and pull their goalie in the final 30 seconds, but the Chiefs managed to clear the puck out of their defensive zone and hold on for an all important 6-5 victory.
Spokane ended up being out shot 43-25 in the game and would go 1-4 on the power play and 6-7 on the penalty kill. Weatherill came away with 38 saves, several in the third period that preserved a one goal lead at the time. The win also propelled Spokane back within 2 points of Portland in the standings, and with the Winterhawks holding two games in hand, the head to head victory was imperative for Spokane if they have any hopes at the playoffs. Now the team needs to follow it up with a win at Seattle, as the Chiefs trail the Thunderbirds by 5 points in the division. A loss would drop Spokane 7 back with Seattle also having 2 games in hand, so it’s another huge test for this young Chiefs squad. Let’s hope the team can summond the energy to pick up another road win, and head back home with some momentum.
January 15th, 2017 at Seattle
With a huge win the night before in Portland under their belts, the Chiefs trekked up I-5 to Kent to get ready for their encounter with the third place Seattle Thunderbirds on Sunday. The team made good time up to Kent, arriving at the ShoWare Center at 1 am to drop off their gear before getting to the team hotel. Seattle had got a big win of their own on Saturday, as they edged Everett in overtime in the Silvertips barn to stay 5 points up on the Chiefs for third place in the U.S. Division. Spokane and Seattle had split the first 6 games of their season series, as each team had won twice on the road in three tries. The Chiefs were going on their 4 game in 5 nights on this road trip, and there was no doubt the team was feeling the wear. I know I certainly was as I felt a bit run down and anxious to finally get home and sleep in my own bed.
It was a beautiful Sunday in Kent as the temperatures hit 40. It had been so long since I knew what thatttt felt like, it was a bit of a shock to the system. Spokane had dropped two of three to the Thunderbirds in the second half of the season, but were hoping to finish the road trip on a winning note. Seattle had other ideas, as the T-Birds came out and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first. An Austin Strand power play goal from the right blue line just over 6 minutes in beat goalie Jayden Sittler to make it 1-0 Seattle. Just over 3 minutes later, a savable shot from the left circle eluded Sittler to give the Thunderbirds a 2-0 lead after one.
Things didn’t start any better in the second, as Seattle’s Nolan Volcan found Sami Moilanen on the rush at 4:59 to put the T-Birds up 3-0, and it looked like the Chiefs were going to be blown out of the barn. Spokane responded midway through the period though, as Hayden Ostir, in his second game back from injury, got the puck between the circles and beat Seattle goalie Rylan Toth for his 4th of the season to bring the Chiefs within 3-1. Spokane then got their only power play of the second shortly after, and the Chiefs converted. Keanu Yamamoto fed a perfect pass across the crease to an open Kailer Yamamoto on the weak side, and the Chiefs leading scorer slammed home his team leading 27th of the season to get Spokane within 3-2. The Chiefs were right back into the game, but poor puck management in trying to clear their own zone…a bugaboo on this night, and quite frankly, all season…cost the Chiefs a penalty for tripping. The ensuing Seattle power play would see Alexander True tip home an Ethan Bear shot from the point late in the second to give the Thunderbirds a 4-2 lead after two.
That goal was the turning point of the game. Seattle would come out and put up two more goals in the first half of the third, including another power play goal from True, to make it a 6-2 game. To the Chiefs credit, they fought back to cut the margin to 6-3 on Ondrej Najman’s goal from between the circles with less than 6 minutes left. Kailer Yamamoto’s second of the night, and 28th of the year in the final minute on a great shot from the right wing capped the scoring as the Chiefs fell short 6-4. The Chiefs penalty kill, after going a perfect 18-18 in the previous 6 games against Seattle, went a dismal 0-3 on this night. It was definitely the difference in the contest.
Spokane finished 1-3 on the 4 game road trip, which realistically speaking, was about what I thought would happen. I figured a 2-2 trip would be ideal and anything above that would require buying lottery tickets. The tough part for Spokane is they are now 7 points back of Seattle for third, and the Thunderbirds have 4 games in hand. The Chiefs are still 2 back of Portland and the Winterhawks have 3 in hand. It’s going to be an uphill battle folks. Spokane is now heading home for their final two home games in January, and the Chiefs have not exactly played well on home ice all season. The Chiefs will finish the month with 3 straight on the road, and the way I figure it, Spokane will have to go at minimum…3-2 in those 5 games. Anything less, and it may take rosary beads to get the team to the post season. Let’s hope the club rebounds Wednesday night at the Arena, as they get the Thunderbirds on home ice.
January 22nd, 2017 at Everett
The Chiefs had started their weekend on the right note as they picked up a 5-2 win over Kootenay at home, but now the big test came as the team boarded the bus the next morning with a match up against division leading Everett. Spokane had gone 0-2 on the Silvertips home ice, including a 5-0 shutout loss in Everett just 11 days earlier. Sunday morning was nice in Spokane but the weather soon deteriorated as the team bus hit Ritzville. It rained until George, and then snowed until the team got over Snoqualmie Pass.
Once arriving at the game, it seemed the team was still on the bus. Everett’s Matt Fonteyne scored just 51 seconds into the game as he was wide open on the left wing. The Silvertips would extend the lead to 2-0 as Patrick Bajkov took a perfect pass from former Chief Dominic Zwerger on the same left side and rifle home an easy tally. The Chiefs surrendered just 5 Everett shots in the first period, yet found themselves down 2-0. Spokane would come out in the second period and start their comeback as Keanu Yamamoto’s pass from the right wing was re-directed by Hudson Elyniuk for his 17th of the season 4 minutes into the period to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Chiefs would pull even at 2 when Riley Woods took a Kailer Yamamoto feed on the right side and then dangled the puck and deeked Everett goalie Carter Hart to the ice. Woods tucked in his 9th goal of the season inside the post to tie the game. The celebration didn’t last long, as Everett’s Lucas Skrumeda lobbed in a shot from the blue line that eluded goalie Jayden Sittler to give the Tips a 3-2 lead after two.
The setback didn’t keep the Chiefs down for long though, as Spokane came out on the first shift of the third period to re-tie the contest. Jaret Anderson-Dolan came on the rush down the right wing and sent the puck to an open Kailer Yamamoto in the slot. Yamamoto fired home his team leading 30th goal of the year just 31 seconds in to even things up a 3 apiece. The game would remain tied for the rest of regulation as the teams headed to overtime for the third time in 6 games this year. Spokane had to kill off an Everett power play midway through overtime as the Chiefs penalty kill was a perfect 3 for 3 on the night.
Spokane had failed to score in 12 shootout tries in 2 previous games, but Woods changed that in round one on this evening, as he fired one past Hart to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead after round one. Spokane couldn’t score in the next two rounds, but Sittler turned back all 3 Everett attempts to secure the Chiefs first shootout win in 3 tries this season. The win was huge for the team as they are now 3-3 against the division leading Silvertips in 6 meetings, and the two points enabled Spokane to tie Portland for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 47 points. Now the task will be to see if the team can make it 3 in a row as they head home to host Seattle in the make-up of last week’s postponed game. The Thunderbirds handed the Chiefs their last loss, 6-4 last Sunday in Seattle, so Spokane will have their hands full with their division rival. If the team plays as well as they have the last two games, the Chiefs have a shot to make it 3 in a row.
January 27th, 2017 at Kootenay
The Chiefs headed into the final weekend of January just a point back of Portland for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Spokane was coming off a disappointing overtime loss at home to Seattle on Tuesday, and were hoping to get things going on the road as they headed to Cranbrook, B.C. to face the Kootenay Ice. Spokane had knocked off the Ice the previous Saturday at home 5-2 and had won 3 of 4 from Kootenay in the season series.
Spokane came out in the first putting the pressure on the Ice. After failing to score on a power play chance, Jaret Anderson-Dolan got free on the right wing and snapped home his 23rd of the season under the bar past goalie Jakub Walter just two seconds after the power play expired to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. The lead held through one as the Chiefs put up 16 shots in the first. Kootenay would counter as they scored on their first power play chance in the second period. Brett Davis scored off a rebound just 10 seconds into the man advantage to even the game at one through two periods.
In the third, Spokane lost a puck battle at their own blue line and the Ice converted an odd man rush less than two minutes in to take a 2-1 lead. The Chiefs came right back though, as Eli Zummack would score his 6th of the year on a great individual effort in driving to the net and deeking Walter to the Ice to make it a 2-2 game. Spokane would then take back to back minor penalties to put Kootenay on a 5 on 3 power play for 59 seconds. The Ice would take advantage as Colton Kroeker scored on a rebound by the right post at 8:28 to give Kootenay a 3-2 lead. The Chiefs were then given a very questionable 5 minute major when Noah Philp lost an edge and he and Chiefs defenseman Jeff Faith crashed hard into the end wall. Spokane was able to kill off the Kootenay power play, but managed little energy to get the equalizing goal as Kootenay handed the Chiefs a damaging 3-2 loss.
With Portland’s win in Everett, the Chiefs are now 3 points back of the Winterhawks for the final playoff spot in the West. Spokane now heads down Highway 395 to face arch rival Tri City on Saturday as they try to knock off a team that has beaten them 5 of 6 this season. The Chiefs will be without leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto as he heads off to the Top Prospects game on Monday. Spokane will also be playing their 50th game of the season in a 72 game campaign at Tri, so the time is starting to get tight for the Chiefs if they hope to make the post season.
January 28th, 2017 at Tri City
After the previous night’s disappointing loss to Kootenay, the Chiefs were hoping to bounce back with a win over arch rival Tri City. Spokane had not played well against the Americans this season, losing 5 of 6, including 4 straight since the Chiefs lone win in their home opener way back on October 1st. The team was now 3 points back of Portland for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West, and with the Chiefs playing game #50 of a 72 game season tonight, the time is getting short for the team to make the playoffs.
Spokane was without leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto, who was off to play in the Top Prospects game in Quebec. The Chiefs headed down Highway 395 in search of their first win in Kennewick this season, having gone 0-3 while being outscored 17-9. The start of this contest looked like it would be more of the same for the Chiefs, as Spokane gave up a goal on Tri City’s first shot of the game. Kyle Olson’s shot from the left wing hit off the pad of goalie Dawson Weatherill and went inside the post to make it a 1-0 game just 1:27 into the contest. Tri’s Dylan Coughlin then wristed a shot from the left circle into the net on the Ams next shot at 2:16 to make it 2-0. Weatherill was replaced by Jayden Sittler, but Tri would strike on their next shot as Parker Wotherspoon scored on a breakaway at 4:26 to put the Americans up 3-0.
The Chiefs would get on the board as Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored his 24th of the year after a pass in the crease from Taylor Ross at 5:59 to cut the lead to 3-1. Tri City would get the lead back to three as the Americans would score their 4th goal on 5 shots on a Vladislav Lukin shot from the right circle midway through the first. Spokane was down 4-1 after one after out shooting Tri 10-6 in the period, but the Chiefs failed to score on 3 power play chances while giving up a shorthanded goal. Spokane would come out in the second period and cut the lead in half on a Hudson Elyniuk breakaway goal 9 minutes in to make it a 4-2 contest. Tri City would answer right back though, as Jordan Topping would score off a 4 on 4 with a shot under the bar midway through the period to put the lead back to 3 at 5-2. Spokane would counter as Eli Zummack would score his 5th goal in 7 games at 16:44 to bring the Chiefs within 5-3 after two periods.
Spokane was needing the next goal to have a chance in the third, but after going the first half of the period with neither team scoring, the roof caved in on the Chiefs. The Americans would score 3 goals on 5 shots over the final 7 minutes to blow the game open and win it 8-3. The Chiefs out shot the Ams 38-23 in the contest, but when you give up 8 goals on those 23 chances, you will neverrrr win a game. To make matters worse, Portland rallied from a 4-1 deficit to win 5-4 at Kelowna and move 5 points ahead of the Chiefs for the final playoff spot in the conference. With just 22 games left in the season, Spokane’s chances for a playoff spot in their 11th straight year is starting to look a little bleak. The Chiefs now head home to open a 3 game homestand, including a game with Portland. It will be a critical stretch for Spokane, and the team musttt play better than they did this past weekend. If things don’t improve quickly, the playoffs will be a dream for this squad.
February 10th, 2017 at Portland
There was no doubt this was the biggest week of the season thus far for the Chiefs, as Spokane entered the week 11 points back of Portland for the final playoff spot in the WHL’s Western Conference playoff race. Spokane took a big step on Wednesday with a 6-5 win over Portland at the Spokane Arena on Wednesday to bring themselves 9 back of the Hawks going into the second half of the home and home on Friday in Portland. Once again, the Chiefs would need a win in regulation to seriously put themselves back in the race and put some heat on Portland.
The Chiefs left on Thursday under gloomy and rainy skies in Spokane. I was actually looking soooo forward to getting out of the weather gloom the Inland Empire has been under these past few weeks, and was just hoping the roads were decent to travel on. As it turns out, the weather broke for the better and the roads had dried out from the icy conditions that had closed the Columbia Gorge the night before. We got into Portland at dinner time, enjoyed a nice steak and potato dinner and I got to bed at a decent hour to rest up for Friday’s game. Friday was sunny and bright to start, but would cloud up and rain later in the morning. The temperatures were nice and mild though, as the temps got into the upper 40’s…something that hasn’t happened in Spokane in at leasttt two months.
A good crowd was at the Rose Garden on this night, as the Chiefs faced the Winterhawks in the home of the NBA’s Trail Blazers for the first time this season. I love the new facility, as the sight lines are good, and the lighting is a millionnn times better than the run down Coliseum. The Chiefs got off to a good start as well, as Hudson Elyniuk, in his first game in almost two weeks, scored off a shot on the left wing just over 5 minutes into the contest to give the Chiefs a quick 1-0 lead. Spokane then had a shot to extend the margin on the power play later in the first, but Cody Glass got past the Chiefs defense and scored a short handed goal at 15:06 to tie the game at one. Spokane came back with a good answer though, as Alex Mowbray’s shot was tipped in by Taylor Ross 44 seconds later to put Spokane on top 2-1 after the first period.
The Chiefs would build on that advantage in the second, as Keanu Yamamoto’s shot from the point beat Portland goalie Shane Farkas 3:34 into the period to put the Chiefs up 3-1. It was Spokane’s only power play chance of the second and it was good to see the Chiefs capitalize on it. Portland would get back within 3-2 when Henri Jokiharju followed his own shot and scored from the right wing at 5:04. The Chiefs would answer back though as Jaret Anderson-Dolan took a Keanu Yamamoto pass and fired home his 30th of the season at 12:02 to put Spokane back up by 2 at 4-2 after two periods. It was the 6th straight game Anderson-Dolan scored a goal, the longest current streak in the league.
Spokane had only lost once all season when leading after two periods and that was a 1-0 lead that was lost to Seattle in a 2-1 game. With a two goal cushion, things were looking good. Unfortunately, the Chiefs managed only 5 shots in the third period as they were on their heels much of the period. In spite of that though, Spokane had severallll quality chances to put the game away, only to turn the puck over or over pass the puck on odd man rush situations. These mistakes would prove deadly in the end. Portland put up 20 shots in the third, and if it wasn’t for the work of goalie Dawson Weatherill, the Chiefs would lost the game in regulation. The Hawks would pull within 4-3 when Joachim Blichfeld scored on a rebound at 7:51 after some loose defensive coverage by the Chiefs forwards. Blichfeld would then bring Portland even at 4 with another rebound as he was left wideee opennn on the left side at 15:31 and he backhanded in the equalizing goal. Weatherill then turned away a breakaway by the Hawks Ryan Hughes in the final 10 seconds to at least preserve a point for Spokane.
In the overtime, the Chiefs out shot Portland 5-2, but failed on a great chance by Kailer Yamamoto after he got open net front. The two teams would head to a shootout for the second time. Blichfeld scored his 3rd straight goal in round one, while the Chiefs Riley Woods was denied as Portland took a 1-0 lead. Neither team scored in round two, and after Hughes was stopped by Weatherill in round 3, Elyniuk had a chance to keep the Chiefs alive. He was denied by goalie Cole Kehler though and Spokane coughed up a valuable chance to make up 2 points on Portland as the Winterhawks gained a point on the Chiefs with a 5-4 come from behind win. Spokane is now 10 points back with just 18 games left to play and the Chiefs won’t play Portland until March 10th.
The loss kind of takes the air out of the balloon in making a playoff push, as the team will now have to regroup quickly as they head back to Spokane to take on the Tri City Americans. Tri has beaten Spokane 6 out of 7 times this season, including the last 5 in a row. The Chiefs are then heading out on a grueling 4 game road trip next week with two games against the top team in the West in Prince George, and back to back games at Kelowna and Tri City. Going into a grind like that with a couple of big wins under your belt is one thing…doing so after a crushing come from ahead loss is quite another. We’ll see how the Chiefs respond as this week willll determine if the Chiefs are heading to a chance at the post season, or playing for next year.
February 13th, 2017 at Prince George
It’s been a longgg weekend of bus travel. That’s my understatement for the week. After an all night bus ride from Portland on Friday that got the team back at 4am, the Chiefs pulled out a big win over Tri City at home to move 8 points back of the Winterhawks for the final playoff spot in the West. The Chiefs didn’t get anyy time to enjoy the win though, as the team got backkk on the bus right after the game Saturday and headed out for a 14 hour excursion that got the Chiefs into Prince George at 1pm on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately the weather was good the entire journey and the roads were in decent shape for an area that got 2 feet of snow on Friday. The team stopped for breakfast in Williams Lake and finished the trip with the sun shining. After getting an afternoon to sit back and relax on a real bed, the team headed out for an all you can eat Chinese feast for dinner that is easily one of the top meals in the league. After hardly eating over the previous 36 hours, I devoured everything in front of me. There wasn’t a lot of time to sit back afterwards though, as the Chiefs were looking at a game the very next afternoon at 2pm against the top team in the West in Prince George.
The Cougars had not played since the previous Wednesday, so there was no question as to who the more rested team was going to be on Monday. It certainly became apparent early in the first period as Cougar defenseman Tate Olson scored on a shot from the left blue line 6.5 minutes into the game to give PG a 1-0 lead. The Chiefs bounced right back though as Kailer Yamamoto stole the puck in the Cougar end and snapped home his team leading 32nd goal of the year at 11:54 to tie the game at one. Prince George took over the period from there though, as Jansen Harkins fed a wide open Radovan Bondra between the circles at 14:27 to give PG a 2-1 advantage. Harkins then blew by Chiefs defenseman Matt Leduc and scored far side on goalie Dawson Weatherill at 16:56 to make it 3-1 Cougars. Prince George carried that lead to the second as they dominated the period, out shooting Spokane 24-7. The one thing that kept the Chiefs in the game was their penalty kill, as they went a perfect 3-3.
Prince George would carry over 1:18 of a power play from the first into the second and it appeared the Cougars converted on the man advantage when Colby McAuley scored at 1:13 to make it 4-1. Fortunately for the Chiefs, the Cougars were called for too many men on the ice, and the goal was waved off. It was a huuugeee break for Spokane, as a 4-1 deficit may have been too much to overcome. The Chiefs seemed to find their legs in the second, and were able to develop 4 power play chances as the Cougars seemed to implode with mistakes. Spokane scored on their second man advantage of the period when Yamamoto put a perfect pass on the tape of an open Hudson Elyniuk net front and Elyniuk scored his career high 20th of the season at 5:59 to draw the Chiefs back within 3-2. The Chiefs ended up out shooting PG 10-3 in the period as they carried over 1:47 of their 4th power play of the second into the third period.
Spokane would score their second power play goal of the night in the early moments of the third as Elyniuk got the puck to an open Keanu Yamamoto on the right post and he scored his career high 22nd of season at 1:32 to bring the Chiefs back even at 3-3. Spokane would generate 5 more power play chances in the third as they went on the man advantage a season high 10 times in the game. The Chiefs were able to keep the pressure on the Cougars in the third and would complete the comeback when Jaret Anderson-Dolan took a Kailer Yamamoto pass on the left wing and put it past Cougar goalie Ty Edmonds at 11:20 of the third to give the Chiefs their first lead at 4-3. Prince George proved to be their worst enemy down the stretch as they committed 5 straight penalties to end the game, including 4 in the last minute. Spokane completed an improbable comeback win as they won for just the 4th time in 27 games when they trailed after two periods this season as they came away with the 4-3 victory.
It was a huugee win for Spokane to say the least. Portland won their game in Kamloops as the Chiefs win kept them 8 points back of the Winterhawks for the final playoff spot in the West. The Chiefs have just 16 games left in the season, so the team must run off a big win streak and hope for a little help from Portland’s opponents. Spokane won’t get a lot of time to celebrate this win as they have to turn around and take on a determined Cougars club tomorrow night. It is awfulll tough to sweep PG in two straight games on their home ice, but that is the task ahead of Spokane tomorrow. Portland will be off on Tuesday, so it’s a major chance to gain two points on the Winterhawks as well. The Chiefs have picked a good time to play their best hockey of the season, but they know they’ll have to keep it up to have a chance at the last playoff berth. The best thing about tonight though, after the win of course, is a chance to get a good night’s sleep in a bed! It’s been a while….
February 14th, 2017 at Prince George
Coming off a great come from behind win the day before, the Chiefs were hoping to get the rare road sweep at Prince George as they hoped to make it two in a row over the West’s top team on Tuesday night. Spokane got a chance to rest up Monday night after the matinee game with the Cougars, so I was curious to see how the club would come out with a little rest under them. There was nooo doubt the Cougars were going to come out fired up after losing their second straight home game and blowing a third period lead against the Chiefs.
After getting off to a slow start in Monday’s game, the Chiefs turned that around on Tuesday. Just 1:21 into the game, Alex Mowbray hit Jaret Anderson-Dolan down the right wing. Anderson-Dolan led a two on one rush with Keanu Yamamoto, and snapped home his team leading 32nd goal of the year to put the Chiefs ahead 1-0. Spokane then had an opportunity to extend the lead when Kailer Yamamoto had two shots stopped net front from Cougar goalie Nick McBride. The Chiefs then got a 5 on 3 power play midway through the period for 1:08, but failed to capitalize. After that failure, the game swung in Prince George’s favor. The Chiefs Tyson Helgesen flung the puck from back of his net into the left circle right to the stick of the Cougars Jered Bethune, who fired home the goal at 13:37 to tie the game at one after the first. It was a pretty even first 20 minutes, but PG was starting to assert control of the game.
In the second, the Chiefs would manage to put up just 4 shots on goal. In spite of that, Spokane was still tied at one late in the period when they went on the power play. Keanu Yamamoto threw a pass at the Cougar blue line that was picked off by Aaron Boyd, who went on a breakaway and scored at 15:33 to give Prince George a 2-1 lead after two. Spokane failed on 3 more power play chances in the period, but did turn aside two Cougar power plays to keep within a goal. The Chiefs would start the third on the power play, but would fail to score for the fifth straight time in the game. Spokane would then start to pay regular visits to the penalty box as they gave up 5 power play chances to the Cougars in the third.
Prince George would score on their second opportunity when Kody McDonald tipped a Radovan Bondra shot from the left wing in at 3:28 of the period to go up 3-1. From that point on, it was allll Cougars. Jansen Harkins then scored inside the post from the right wing on a 5 on 3 power play at the 9 minute mark to make it a 4-1. Colby McAuley then scored at 14:26 to put the game out of reach at 5-1. Brad Morrison’s goal from the right wing at 17:09 extended the lead to 6-1 before the Chiefs got a consolation goal from Ethan McIndoo net front at 18:15 to get within 6-2. Prince George wasn’t done though as they added another tally in the final 24 seconds to put an exclamation point on a 7-2 rout. The five goals surrendered by the Chiefs in the third were the most given up in a third period this season, as Spokane’s playoff push took a major jolt.
Spokane remains 8 points back of Portland for the last playoff berth in the West, and no longer have any games in hand. Just 15 games remain in the season, with 8 on the road and 7 at home. The Chiefs will play Tri City 4 times, Seattle twice, Everett twice, and Portland twice in the division. Spokane also has two games with Victoria and two with Kelowna in the B.C., and one more contest with Prince George. The schedule is going to be a gauntlet for the Chiefs, and unless they turn their game to a new level, it’s going to be exxxtremelyyy difficult to make up 8 points. It’s not impossible….but the chances are less than 10% of the Chiefs making it happen. Spokane now has two more games left on the road trip, with back to back games at Kelowna Friday and Tri City on Saturday. Realistically, if the team gets a split…it’s a victory. Unfortunately, splitting games right now will not get you making up ground.
February 17th, 2017 at Kelowna
Coming off the thrashing at Prince George on Tuesday, the Chiefs got a muchhh needed two days off as they headed to Kelowna for game three of their four road trip. Wednesday was another long day of travel as the team left late morning from PG and arrived in Kelowna in time for dinner at seven. Some Memphis Southern style ribs went down pretty well though and it was nice to get to bed at a decent hour going into a full day in Kelowna. The team went through a spirited practice on Thursday morning and then got to relax the rest of the day as they prepared to face a Rockets team that had won 3 straight and 7 of their last 10.
Friday’s game was nationally televised in Canada on Sportsnet and was shown across the U.S. on the NHL Network, so needless to say, the boys were fired up about the chance to play in front of 2/3 of North America. The Chiefs came out well too, as a loose puck was picked up by Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who fired a one timer from the high slot at 8:47 to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. A.D. has now scored a goal in 8 of his last 9 games and leads the club with 33 on the season. The goal got Spokane going again less than 3 minutes later, as defenseman Jeff Faith shot from the blue line was rebounded in by Ethan McIndoe at 12:24 to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead after one.
It didn’t take long for the Chiefs to expand that margin in the second as Dalton Hamaliuk fired a stretch pass to Hudson Elyniuk, who got behind the Kelowna defense and scored on a breakaway just 1:30 in to give Spokane a 3-0 lead. The Rockets would cut the margin to 3-1 on a Nick Merkley wrap around just over 6 minutes in. Merkley then fed an open Nolan Foote with just under three minutes left as Foote beat goalie Jayden Sittler to cut the Chiefs lead to 3-2 after two. That lead would melt away early in the third when Calvin Thurkauf scored on a wrap around at 3:55 to tie the contest at three. Spokane came right back and answered when Taylor Ross went on a two on one rush with Hamaliuk. Hamaliuk’s shot was stopped, but Hayden Ostir fired home the rebound for his 7th of the season at 6:18 of the period to give the Chiefs a 4-3 lead.
The Rockets would get a power play chance late in the third on an Elyniuk 4 minute double minor penalty for high sticking, but Kailer Yamamoto forced a penalty on the Rockets to negate the power play with just over two minutes remaining in the game. After a non-call on Yamamoto being tackled away from the puck, Tyson Helgesen was then cited for a hooking penalty in the final two minutes to give Kelowna a 4 on 3 power play. The Rockets would pull their goalie in the last minute and a half and would take advantage on the 5 on 3 as Thurkauf scored his second of the period on a rebound net front with just over a minute left to tie the game at 4.
So for the 3rd straight time this season, and the 5th time in 7 games over two years, the two teams would head to overtime. The Chiefs had to kill off 42 seconds of Kelowna power play time to start the OT, and just after doing so, Elyniuk, who had just come out of the penalty box, hit Yamamoto with a perfect pass as he drove to the net. Yamamoto deeked goalie Brodan Salmond to the ice and slid home the game winner 1:01 into the extra frame to give Spokane their 3rd straight overtime win over the Rockets this season. The Chiefs have now won 4 of the 5 against Kelowna that have gone extra time, with the only loss coming in a shootout last season.
It was a huge win for Spokane as the Chiefs remained 8 points back of Portland and Victoria for the final playoff spot in the West. The Chiefs only have 14 games left in the season, so the team can not afford losses, let alone those in regulation, right now. The schedule doesn’t get any easier either, as the team now heads on an all night ride to Tri Cities to face the Americans tomorrow night. Tri will be sitting at home rested after a 4-2 win over Seattle in Kennewick, so the challenge will be great for Spokane. Not to mention, the Chiefs have dropped 6 of 8 to Tri City this season, including all 4 on the Americans home ice. Let’s hope the Chiefs can come out with the same effort tomorrow they showed tonight.
February 18th, 2017 at Tri City
After a huge win in overtime the night before, the Chiefs took off for an all night ride from Kelowna down to Tri City to face the arch rival Americans. Kennewick had not been too kind to the Chiefs this season, as Spokane had lost all 4 meetings to the Ams on their home ice. The Chiefs had snapped a 5 game losing streak to Tri though the previous Saturday at home and were hoping to make it two in a row as Spokane closed out their 4 game road trip. The team was 8 points back of both Portland and Victoria for the final playoff spot in the West as Spokane entered the final 4 weeks of the regular season.
It was a cloudy, gloomy day in Kennewick as the team got as much rest as they could after the grueling 7 hour road trip overnight. The Chiefs and Americans went back and forth in the first period as each team put up 12 shots and failed to score on their only power plays. Tri City though would take the lead with less than 5 minutes left in the period when the Chiefs missed Morgan Geekie at the Spokane blue line and he led a 2 on 0 break. Geekie hit an open Parker AuCoin, who put the puck in the open cage to make it 1-0 after one. The one thing with good teams is they will make you pay for your mistakes…and with bad teams…they see their mistakes bite em.
The Chiefs had a gloriousss chance in the second to tie the game, when Hudson Elyniuk and Keanu Yamamoto went on a 2 on 0 break. Unlike the Americans though, the Chiefs failed to score as Yamamoto’s point blank shot was smothered by Tri City goalie Evan Sarthou. Spokane got two power plays in the period but were denied on both. On the Chiefs second attempt, Spokane had a bad change and the Americans pounced as Nolan Yaremko rebounded a shot net front to score short handed with less than 5 minutes left in the period to give the Ams a 2-0 lead after two. The sentence I wrote at the end of the last paragraph? Repeat here…
Spokane would get on the board early in the third as Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s shot from the right circle would be rebounded in by Kailer Yamamoto for his team leading 34th of the season at 4:22 to bring the Chiefs within 2-1. It was as close as the Chiefs would get though, as Tri City took advantage of three straight power play chances beginning midway through the period. A tip by Juuso Valimaki made it 3-1 Americans midway through. Tyler Sandhu then tapped in another power play marker with less than 2 minutes left to extend the lead to 4-1 and Brett Leason scored with under a minute remaining on another man advantage to cap the scoring. Things went South in a hurry for Spokane, as the Chiefs remained 8 back of Portland in playoff race after the Winterhawks lost in Seattle.
Time is starting to tick down on the Chiefs, who trail by 4 games with 13 left to play. The schedule is not exactly easy either, as the team returns home to host the Americans next Saturday and then Kelowna on Sunday. Spokane will then head out on another 4 game road trip to Everett, Victoria and Seattle the first week in March. It’s not like any of those teams are struggling right now, and Spokane can nottt play .500 hockey and hope to make up the ground they need to challenge for a playoff spot. The Chiefs have held status quo over the last week, which considering the schedule they just had, is not a baddd thing. The team though will definitely need to amp it up, as they must win both home games, and then go 3-1 on the road trip. Barring a Portland collapse, anything less and the Chiefs will probably start playing for next year.
March 1, 2017 at Everett
No question the Chiefs playoff hopes took a majorrr blow the past weekend when Spokane got outscored by a cumulative 14-6 margin in back to back home losses to Tri City and Kelowna. Spokane now had just one game in hand as they remained 9 points behind Portland for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with only 11 games left in the season. The Chiefs entered the final 3 weeks of the regular campaign by heading out on a 4 game road trip against Everett, Victoria and Seattle…a regular gauntlet for sure when you see Everett and Seattle as two of the top 3 teams in the West and Victoria on a roll of late, having won 4 of their last 5.
First up for the Chiefs were the U.S. Division leaders, the Everett Silvertips. Everett was also on top of the conference by a point over both Prince George and Seattle, and were ranked 9th in the latest CHL top 10 poll. Spokane had enjoyed some success against the Tips this year though, having won 3 of 6, including their last visit to Everett with a 4-3 shootout win in late January. The team headed out game day morning from Spokane for the 4.5 hour drive as there was anything from bright sunshine to rain along the way. After arriving at the team hotel, the team had their pre-game meal and got a couple hours of rest in before heading to the rink for their meeting with the Silvertips.
Spokane made the trip without starting goalie Dawson Weatherill, who will miss the trip with an upper body injury. The Chiefs were also without defenseman Jeff Faith, who got hurt in the first period of the Kelowna loss. Unlike their game with the Rockets though, the Chiefs got off to a muchhhh better start. Spokane would come out and control play offensively as they out shot the Silvertips 14-7 in the first period and generated the only 2 power plays. The Chiefs would take advantage on their first opportunity as Hudson Elyniuk hit an open Jaret Anderson-Dolan net front. Anderson-Dolan deeked goalie Carter Hart down to the ice and lifted a back hand into the net for his 34th goal of the year to make it 1-0 after one.
The Chiefs would control the second period as well as they held Everett to just 4 shots in out shooting the Tips 12-4. Spokane would take a two goal lead after two as Kailer Yamamoto finished off a beautiful give and go with Anderson-Dolan late in the period. Everett would then commit back to back penalties as the Tips were whistled for a delay of game, and then referee Brett Iverson tossed Everett assistant Mitch Love for a few comments and assessed another two minute minor in the process. The Chiefs converted the 5 on 3 advantage as Hudson Elyniuk scored on a tip on a Keanu Yamamoto shot from between the circles 1:13 into the third to take a 3-0 lead.
Everett would break up the shutout bid of goalie Jayden Sittler when the Silvertips would score on the second of four straight power play chances in the third period. Riley Sutter’s rebound from the left circle made it a 3-1 lead at 13:35, but the Chiefs penalty kill and Sittler shut down Everett from there. Spokane would put the finishing touches on the 4-1 victory when Kailer Yamamoto picked up his third assist of the night with a steal and feed to Riley Woods, who scored into an empty net at 17:34. Sittler turned aside 32 shots on the night, 21 of those in the third to pick up his team leading 15th win of the year.
It was a tremendous bounce back for Spokane after the poor effort against Kelowna the game before. The Chiefs have now beaten Everett 4 out of 7 this season, and Spokane has now handed the Silvertips 2 of their 10 losses at home this year. That was the good news for the Chiefs. The bad news came in two forms as the team lost defenseman Nolan Reid to an injury in the third period, in addition to Portland taking out Vancouver 5-1 and remaining 9 points up on Spokane for the final playoff berth in the West. The Chiefs have just 10 games remaining with the next two coming up in Victoria on Friday and Saturday. Spokane is going to need to sweep both, a very tough proposition against a Royals team playing very well right now. But…and a very big but…if the Chiefs play as well as they did tonight, they should be alright this weekend.
March 3, 2017 at Victoria
The road trip could not have started better for the Chiefs after their 4-1 win over Everett on Wednesday. Despite the win though, Spokane was still 9 points back of Portland for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and the team needed to keep winning to keep the pressure on the Winterhawks. The trip wasn’t going to get any easier either, as the Chiefs headed to Canada for the final time this season with a two game roadie in Victoria against the Royals. Victoria had won 4 straight and had beaten the Chiefs in both meetings in Spokane earlier in the season. Needless to say, it was going to be a tough challenge for the Chiefs. To make matters worse, the Chiefs were without defensemen Jeff Faith and Nolan Reid, who had been hurt in Spokane’s last two games. Spokane was now forced to play three 16 year old’s on defense in Ty Smith, Matt Leduc and Luke Gallagher, who had just been called up from the Spokane Braves, and were still without starting goalie Dawson Weatherill.
The Chiefs were hoping to come out with some energy on game day after traveling Thursday from Everett to Victoria. The ferry ride was rainy, and the wet skies would continue into the night to game day on Friday. The rain broke enough to enable me to go out and enjoy a walk around the inner harbor area of the British Columbia capital. With the team hotel by the Legislature building, you feel like you’re right in the heart of the city. I won’t lie…Victoria is my favorite stop in the league, and I always look forward to coming here. I will personally vote that the league neverrrr allows the Royals to leave. EVER.
Spokane had started well in Everett on Wednesday, and they would do the same on Friday in Victoria. Kailer Yamamoto got the puck from Hudson Elyniuk and was knocked down to his stomach. While prone on the ice, Yamamoto found Jaret Anderson-Dolan open on the right wing, and Anderson-Dolan one timed home his 35th goal of the year at 4:54 in to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Victoria turned up the pressure offensively as the first period wore on, and would get a power play chance late in the stanza. The Royals Jack Walker took advantage of a bad pinch by defenseman Dalton Hamaliuk to skate unmolested down the left wing and sent the puck past goalie Jayden Sittler at 18:27 to even the game at one after the first.
The late goal didn’t faze the Chiefs though, as they went right back to work in the second period. Spokane’s Rykr Cole forced the puck free in the Royals zone early in the period and got it to Riley McKay. McKay hit an open Ondrej Najman between the circles and Najman fired home his 5th goal of the year at 1:51 to put the Chiefs back up 2-1. The Chiefs would continue to play well in the period, and would be rewarded when Eli Zummack found Tyson Helgesen in the Royals zone. Helgesen drove the puck to the net, his shot was stopped, but Ethan McIndoe came in and scored on the rebound at 14:46 to give the Chiefs a 3-1 lead. Just as it looked like Spokane was taking control of the game, the Chiefs took a careless tripping penalty from Hayden Ostir less than a minute later. Victoria’s Dante Hannoun took advantage with a goal from the left wing on a one timer at 16:43 to get the Royals within 3-2. Spokane looked to go up one at the end of the period, but Kailer Yamamoto took a high stick minor in the final half minute. The Chiefs had a chance to clear the puck out of their own zone, but flubbed the opportunity. Hannoun got the puck down below the Chiefs goal line and banked the puck off Sittler with just .2 seconds left to tie the game at three after two.
It was a disasterous ending for the Chiefs as they saw a two goal lead disappear in less than 3.5 minutes. Spokane came out and played well in the third though, as they would end up out shooting Victoria 12-4 in the period. The Chiefs would also generate their first two power play chances in the game, but would come up empty. Despite putting up most of the pressure offensively, the Chiefs would cough up the puck at the Royals blue line and it would lead to a 2 on 1 rush into Spokane’s zone. Matthew Phillips shot was stopped by Sittler, but Carter Folk dug up the rebound and hit an open Phillips on the left side of the net for the game winning goal with just over 6 minutes left in the game. Spokane would pull Sittler in the final minute and a half, but would fail to score on Victoria goalie Griffen Outhouse as the Royals pulled out the 4-3 come from behind victory.
The loss was devastating for Spokane’s playoff hopes as their run of 10 straight playoff berths is on life support in hopes of making it 11 years in a row. Portland won their game with Vancouver in overtime, and are now 11 points up on Spokane with just 9 games left in the season for the Chiefs. Simply put, Spokane has to pretty much win out, and hope for Portland to totally collapse. With the Winterhawks playing last place Vancouver again in Portland on Saturday, it’s safe to say the Hawks will gain another two points against the Giants. If the Chiefs lose again to the Royals Saturday, not only will Victoria clinch a playoff spot, but Spokane could be eliminated from post season consideration by the middle of next week. Time is running out on the Chiefs and it’s not a good feeling to watch the sand running through the hour glass.
March 4, 2017 at Victoria
After last night’s crushing defeat, the Chiefs saw the sun rise the next day in Victoria as the rain clouds departed. Spokane was hoping to see the results on the ice would follow suit as the team took on the Royals for the second straight evening on Saturday. Time was running out on Spokane as the Chiefs entered the game 11 points back of 8th place Portland with just 9 games remaining in the season.
For the second straight night, Spokane jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first as Hayden Ostir’s shot deflected off a defender and knuckle balled past goalie Griffen Outhouse 12:48 into the game. Unfortunately for the second straight game, Victoria would tie the game on a power play goal as Matthew Phillips scored with 57 seconds left in the period to make it a 1-1 game after one. The Chiefs controlled the first, out shooting Victoria 14-7 in the first 20 minutes, including a 9-1 margin early in the contest.
Spokane would come out in the second period much like they had the night before. This time the Chiefs would use the power play as Spokane got 4 straight man advantage chances in the second. The Chiefs would get 1:37 of a 5 on 3 power play midway through the period and seized the opportunity when Hudson Elyniuk rebounded a Keanu Yamamoto shot with a back hand into the net at 11:21 of the period to give Spokane a 2-1 lead. Then on the 5 on 4 power play, Elyniuk would tip a Ty Smith shot past Outhouse at 12:19 to give Spokane a 3-1 margin for the second straight game. Anddd for the second straight game, the Chiefs would cough up the two goal advantage in the second period.
Victoria’s comeback started with a soft goal given up from the blue line by goalie Jayden Sittler just 40 seconds after Elyniuk’s second tally to bring the Royals within 3-2. That goal gave Victoria momentum, and they would cap the comeback with a power play goal off a rebound from Regan Nagy at 15:10 to tie the game at three after two periods. Spokane had out shot Victoria 31-17 after 40 minutes, but had gone 0 for 2 on the penalty kill and were even heading to the third. Neither team was able to get on the board in the third as both teams had limited opportunities offensively. In the overtime, a blown defensive assignment by the Chiefs would give Phillips an opening net front, and for the second straight night, and the third time this season against Spokane, the Royals leading scorer potted the game winner as he scored at 2:42 to give Victoria their second straight win over the Chiefs.
Once again, the ending was a bitter disappointment for Spokane, but the result pointed out why the Chiefs are on the outside looking in at a playoff spot. Spokane’s lack of depth at both ends of the ice was evident, and the goal tending has been average to below average at best. The penalty kill is now suddenly struggling, going just 1 for 6 in 2 games in Victoria. March is nottt the time of year to be struggling on special teams. The Chiefs did put up 40 shots, but going 2-9 on the power play is not good enough right now. Spokane had to go with three 16 year old’s on defense, and on the whole, I thought they played pretty well. Luke Gallagher, in just his second and third games as a Chief, proved to be a reliable #4 D man, and picked up his first WHL point with an assist on Ostir’s goal in the first period.
The tough part is Spokane lost another point to Portland as the Winterhawks finished off a 3 game sweep of Vancouver Saturday to go up 12 points with just 8 games left in the season for Spokane. That means if the Chiefs want to catch the Hawks in the standings, they have to go 8-0, while Portland has to go 2-5, with all 5 losses in regulation. Fat chance of that happening folks. In other words, two more Portland wins, or two more Chiefs losses in regulation will end Spokane’s 10 year playoff streak. I think it’s a foregone conclusion. The Chiefs have 8 games left in the season, and I’ll be curious to see how the young players will take their playing time to get better for next year. Spokane is now off to Seattle to finish off the road trip, and now the hope is the team still has something to play for when they host Portland this next Friday.
March 7, 2017 at Seattle
After two disappointing losses in Victoria, the Chiefs got back on the bus and headed South into the States as they capped their 4 game road trip with a visit to the Seattle Thunderbirds. Spokane had not had a lot of luck with the T-Birds of late, having dropped three straight to their division rivals. The nice thing for the Chiefs was they would be rested, as the team spent an off day on Sunday hanging out in Victoria before heading out on the ferry on Monday for Vancouver. The trip down to Seattle went quick as the team arrived at the team hotel in Kent around 1:30 in the afternoon. Spokane got a practice in late in the afternoon before heading out to dinner and getting a good night’s rest.
The Chiefs got some good news as defenseman Jeff Faith got back in the lineup after missing the previous week due to injury. Spokane was still without D man Nolan Reid, as the team was still having to play three 16 year old’s on the blue line. The team had got off to good starts in the previous three games of the road trip, and the Chiefs would do so again on Tuesday. Tyson Helgesen would get the puck and fire a shot from the left wing that hit the cross bar. The rebound kicked out net front where Hudson Elyniuk poked in the puck 5:55 into the game to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. The goal was Elyniuk’s third in his last two games as he now has 26 on the season.
Spokane couldn’t hold the lead for long though, as Seattle went on the power play less than 2 minutes later. The Thunderbirds converted as Alexander True fired one from the low left circle and the game was tied at one midway through the first. Seattle would take the lead for good just 1:37 later as Turner Ottenbreit’s shot from the left blue line beat a screened goalie Jayden Sittler to make it 2-1 T-Birds. Seattle would score a back breaking third straight goal in the period when the Chiefs lost a puck battle on the wall, and Anthony Bishop got the puck wideee open between the top of the circles. His wrister with just 29 seconds left capped a three goal period for Seattle as they took a 3-1 lead to the second.
The Chiefs would bounce back in the second, as they would play their best period of the game. Spokane out shot Seattle 18-6 in the frame, but failed to find the net, as the team did not get a lot of net front activity on their shots. The failure to score would be amplified in the third, as the Thunderbirds scored two goals in the first 6.5 minutes to put the game away. Keegan Kolesaar scored on a back hand going from right to left to put Seattle up 4-1. Then Seattle’s Donovan Neuls pick pocketed the Chiefs Ondrej Najman to score from the right wing over the glove of Sittler to put the game away at 5-1. That goal spelled the end of the evening for Sittler, and Donovan Buskey got to play the rest to the contest as he gave up nothing the remainder of the game. Spokane would cap the scoring as Kailer Yamamoto scored Spokane’s first penalty shot goal of the season in the final minute to finish off a 5-2 loss.
The Chiefs playoff hopes basically were doused for good tonight with this loss. Spokane no longer has any games in hand on Portland and are still 12 back of a playoff spot with just 7 games left. It means a Spokane loss tomorrow at home to Everett and a Portland win over Prince George at home and the Chiefs are officially eliminated. Going into the final three weeks, the Chiefs knew they had to get on a win streak, and the fact of the matter is, the team went on a losing streak instead. Spokane has now dropped 3 in a row, and 7 of their last 10. That is nooo way to make a playoff run, so the team will see their 10 year playoff run come to an end during their upcoming 4 game home stand.
Now the team can turn its attention to Everett tomorrow night at the Arena, and the team will do so less than refreshed. Thanks to the miserable winter here in Washington this year that neverrr seems to end, the team had to sit for over an hour waiting for Snoqualmie Pass to open due to the snow and accidents earlier in the evening. Arriving early in the morning, the team will be lessss than refreshed as they take on an Everett team that traveled over to Spokane earlier in the day. It’s been that kind of season for the Chiefs…but it’s one that only has a week and a half left in it.
March 17, 2017 at Tri City
Since the Chiefs had last been on the road, the team had been eliminated from playoff contention after dropping 4 straight games at home. Spokane had now gone winless since a win at Everett on March 1st, a streak of 7 straight; the longest losing skid of the season. In a month that had started with promise, those two one goal losses in Victoria had now snowballed into two weeks of losing, and quite frankly, I was ready for the streak to end. I know the players and staff were as well, as the Chiefs got on the bus and headed to the Tri Cities to take on the Americans. Tri City had been struggling as well of late, losing their last 5 in a row, including three at home where they had been blown out in all three defeats to Prince George, Everett and Portland.
Spokane had been dismal against the Americans this season though, losing 8 of 10, including all 5 in Kennewick. The Chiefs had been outscored 30-13 in the five losses, and had only dropped one game by a goal. Spokane had lost the last two meetings with Tri by successive 5-1 scores, so the Chiefs were going to have to find a way to turn thattt around on this St. Patrick’s Day. Spokane would actually get off to a good start in the first period, as the Chiefs out shot Tri City 14-8 in the first and generated the only two power plays of the frame. Unfortunately for Spokane, Tri would get the only goal of the period when a defensive breakdown led to a wide open Vladislav Lukin on the right wing, and he scored with just 24 seconds left in the period to give the Americans a 1-0 lead after one.
Tri City carried that momentum into the second as they controlled things offensively, out shooting the Chiefs 11-8 and getting two of the three power plays. It was the Chiefs though that got the only goal of the stanza as Kailer Yamamoto took a Hudson Elyniuk pass net front and scored on his rebound at 16:52 to even the game at one. It was Yamamoto’s 40th goal of the season as he became the first Chief to break the 40 goal mark since Adam Helewka’s 44 in 2014-15. So for the second straight game, the Chiefs headed into the third tied at one.
Just like the game at home Wednesday with Seattle, Spokane would fall behind early in the third. Morgan Geekie hit an open Dylan Coughlin on the right wing and the Tri City defenseman fired home the go ahead goal just 22 seconds into the third to make it 2-1 Ams. Tyler Sandhu then finished off a rush at 8:31 to give the Americans a 3-1 lead. Just when it looked like the game was getting away from the Chiefs, Spokane went on the power play. Keanu Yamamoto hit an open Hudson Elyniuk between the circles and Elyniuk’s 28th of the season at 12:28 brought the Chiefs within 3-2. The Americans countered right back though, as Geekie scored net front at 15:13 of the third to seemingly give the Ams a comfortable 4-2 lead.
Spokane pulled goalie Jayden Sittler in the final 3.5 minutes, but were unable to get anything in the Americans net. After a face-off in the Chiefs zone forced Sittler back on the ice, Spokane won the draw and headed up ice. Elyniuk made a nice individual effort to get the puck to Kailer Yamamoto, and Yamamoto scored his second of the game on a back hander with 1:02 remaining to bring the Chiefs within 4-3. After the face-off, Spokane pulled Sittler from goal and Keanu Yamamoto got the puck on the left wing. He zipped a pass net front right to the tape of Kailer and he scored with just 35 seconds left to not only tie the game at four, but secure his first hat trick of the season.
It was as improbable a comeback as I’ve seen recently, but it was great to see the Chiefs show some fight to em, and for the second time this season, Spokane and Tri City headed to overtime. The first time back in November, it was the Chiefs that gave up a last second goal in regulation and then watched the Americans score in the first minute of overtime to win 5-4. While it was the Chiefs that got the tying goal late in the third this time around, it was the Ams repeating history as Morgan Geekie scored off an odd man 3 on 2 rush just 28 seconds into the overtime to give Tri City a 5-4 victory. While it was nice for the Chiefs to get the point, Spokane had now lost 8 straight and 9 of 11 to their biggest rival. It’s Spokane’s worst performance in the season series with Tri City since 1999. With just two games left in the season, the Chiefs would sure like to win at least one before heading into next year. The team now heads back on the bus for the two hour ride to Spokane with one last chance to beat the Americans this season. I for one, will be very curious to see how the team comes out in front of the home fans tomorrow. The team has nottt been very good on home ice this year, so it would sure be nice to summon up some pride and give the home fans something to cheer about tomorrow.
March 19, 2017 at Portland
After the team suffered their 9th straight loss in a tough shootout defeat in the home finale with Tri City, the Chiefs got on the bus for their final game of the season as they headed to Portland to face the Winterhawks. While Spokane was hoping to end a disappointing year on an up note, the Winterhawks needed a win to secure 3rd place in the U.S. Division and a match up with rival Seattle in the first round of the playoffs. A loss by Portland, and a Tri City win, would send the Hawks packing up to Prince George for their first round series. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a 2.5 hour bus ride is a helluva lot better than a 14 hour one, and the Chiefs knew that Portland was going to come out firing in their home finale.
Sunday’s game would be the Chiefs 4th in 5 nights, and after an all night ride to Portland that got the team to the hotel about 4:30am, I had to wonder how much would be in the tank for the team. The contest would mark the final game for goalie Jayden Sittler, and forwards Alex Mowbray and Keanu Yamamoto. For Yamamoto, it was also the final game with his brother Kailer, so I had a feeling those two would come out and play one of their better games of the season. Things started very well for the Chiefs as Mowbray would tip a Matt Leduc shot from the left point in for his 4th of the year just under 6 minutes in to give Spokane a 1-0 lead.
Then for the first time in my 15 years, I saw a team play a player that was scratched on the game sheet. Portland sent out forward Brett Clayton on the ice about 5 minutes into the game, and I remarked the Winterhawks must of made a last second change in their lineup as I had him as a scratch. On the next whistle, the referee checked the game sheet, and sure enough, Clayton had been scratched, rendering illegal. The result was Clayton was removed from the game, and the Chiefs got a power play. Spokane made the most of it, as Riley Woods slapped home a goal from the left point at 8:04 to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead. Portland would cut the lead in half when they scored a power play goal of their own midway through the period, but the Chiefs bounced right back.
Spokane went on a rush up ice and Kailer Yamamoto dropped a pass back to his brother Keanu who was trailing the play. Keanu fired home his 25th goal of the season at 14:39 to put the Chiefs back up by two. The goal sparked a 4 goal outburst from Spokane as well. The Chiefs would cap a four goal first when Woods picked up a loose puck behind the net and found an open Zummack net front with just 1:06 left in the period to put Spokane up 4-1 after one. That goal put the Winterhawks on their heels the rest of the game. In the second, Portland would put Spokane on the power play four times, and the Chiefs would score on two of them.
Keanu Yamamoto got the scoring started with his second of the night with an open shot from the left wing on the Chiefs second power play of the period at 14:08 to make it 5-1. On Spokane’s next man advantage, Kailer Yamamoto got a pass to Keanu, who then hit an open Hudson Elyniuk on the far post for Elyniuk’s 29th of the year to put Spokane ahead 6-1 after two. Portland would score on a 5 on 3 power play goal from Keegan Iverson early in the third period to cut the lead to 6-2, but the Chiefs came right back as Riley McKay drove the puck on goal and scored his first goal since New Year’s Eve at Tri City to cap off a decisive 7-2 victory.
Jayden Sittler picked up 30 saves for the win in his final game in a Chiefs jersey, as all three 20 year olds played big roles in Spokane snapping their 9 game losing streak. Keanu would finish his career with the Gordie Howe hat trick as his two goals, an assist, and a fight in the third period would cap his career off on a high note. It was great to finally get the monkey off the Chiefs back as the team can now look forward to next season.
I go back to the last time Spokane missed the playoffs in 2006. The Chiefs finished tied with the worst record in the league that year, but a crop of young talent left me optimistic for the future. This year is kind of similiar to that season. Spokane had only 3 nineteen year olds this year, with Hudson Elyniuk, Tyson Helgesen, and Rykr Cole returning probably for their 20 year old seasons. The Chiefs have a glut of 18 year olds, as 9 will become 19 year olds next season, including their leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto. With six 17 year olds returning, led by Jaret Anderson-Dolan, and five 16 year olds back next year, the team will be extremely experienced. While there were several things lacking with the team this year, their depth should improve next season, and that area is one that definitely needs to get better. I was reminded that it’s 161 days to the Red-White game, which seems a very short time from now. I’m excited for next year though, and you should be as well. We’ll see you at camp this August!