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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.

Archived On The Road Blogs: 2017-18 season

February 16th, 2019 at Tri City

There is never enough preparation for an all night bus ride. No matter how much you think you get rested, it’s never enough. They never go fast enough, and they’re never a smooth ride. They are a fact of life in the Western Hockey League though, and I’ve made my fair share over the last 18 seasons with the Chiefs. You just never get used to them. The ride from Vancouver to the Tri Cities last night was one of them. I feel asleep sometime in Seattle and was peacefully out when I, along with the front of the bus, was woke up by an owl slamming into the window of the bus outside of Ellensburg. It cracked the entire upper half of the passenger side front window, but fortunately didn’t break the glass, or see the uninvited owl land in our laps. Needless to say, I was awake for most of the journey after that as we hit the hotel around 5 am in Kennewick.
The previous night’s game in Vancouver had seen the Chiefs fall behind 4-1 after two, only to fall short 5-4 after a big third period rally. The team was trying to avoid a similar fate as they took on the Americans in Tri Cities the next night in a key division game. Spokane was just 3 points up on the Ams coming in, so the Chiefs knew a regulation loss would see the lead cut to one heading into the final month of the season. Spokane started well in the game, but failed to score on a power play chance early. Tri City got their first man advantage after a questionable kneeing call on a hip check from the Chiefs Nolan Reid, and the Americans took advantage as a Nolan Yaremko power play tally less than a minute later made it 1-0 Tri. Tri City then took a 2-0 lead on a rebound net front just over 5 minutes later, and despite out shooting Tri City 15-9 in the first, the Chiefs trailed 2-0 after one.
The second period was an absolute disaster for the Chiefs as back to back short handed goals just 18 seconds apart 1:19 into the period doubled the lead for Tri City at 4-0. Careless passes at the Chiefs blue line and in the neutral zone led to the Americans getting a couple of easy goals as they opened up the game. When the Americans Kyle Olson scored his second of the period just 3:03 in, it gave Tri City a 5-0 lead and spelled the end of the night for Chiefs goalie Bailey Brkin. It looked like another Tri City blowout was in the works, as after all, the Americans had won 3 straight at home over Spokane by a 15-3 margin. The Chiefs did battle back in the second as Nolan Reid broke the shutout up with a goal at 18:18 to make it 5-1. Just 22 seconds later, Michael King scored his 2nd of the year vs. Tri to bring the Chiefs within 5-2 after two. Spokane out shot Tri City 21-10 in the second and had to feel they were right back in the game.
Unfortunately, a careless turnover behind the Chiefs net early in the third led to an easy Tri City goal just 1:41 into the third and Spokane was now behind 6-2. The Chiefs came right back though as Ethan McIndoe finished off a nice rush from Riley Woods at 4:43 to cut the lead to 6-3. Adam Beckman then took over, scoring back to back goals at 9:14 and 15:08 to bring the Chiefs back to 6-5. Who knew? Just like the night before, the Chiefs had come roaring back in the third to get within a goal. Unfortunately, like the night before, the come back bid would fall short as an empty netter from Olson capped off a 7-5 Tri City win in which Spokane dominated offensively.
The Chiefs out shot Tri City 50-22 in the game including a 14-2 margin in the third. Unfortunately for Spokane, the Americans scored on both of those shots for the final margin of victory. Spokane’s power play was not good, going 0 for 6 while coughing up 2 short handed goals, while the penalty kill was 1 for 2. While the team did an awfullll lot right in the game, particularly in the offensive zone with their puck possession, there was certainly enough wrong to give up 7 goals on just 22 shots. The loss was the 6th in 8 games to the Chiefs biggest rival, and the series is the lone reason Tri is in the running to take over third from Spokane in U.S. Division.
Spokane will now get a few days off before heading home for a two game homestand next weekend against Kelowna and Tri City. The Chiefs have been terrific at home, with the best winning percentage on home ice in the division. Unfortunately, the team has 7 of their next 13 on the road, including two at Tri City and 1 at Portland, where the Chiefs are 0-6 combined. Defensively, this team has to figure out how to tighten things up and they will have to get better goaltending than they showed this past weekend if they hope to make a dent in the playoffs. Giving up 12 goals in 2 games to two fellow playoff teams is nottt a good sign going forward for Spokane. Hopefully, the Chiefs will address those problems in the next week.

February 15th, 2019 at Vancouver

After winning their last road game at Kelowna, the Chiefs had returned home and taken care of business at home, winning 3 straight to match their season longest winning streak of 4 straight. The last time Spokane had won 4 in a row, they had returned home went up 3-0 midway through the first period on Vancouver, only to give up 6 of the next 7 goals to lose 6-4. Now the Chiefs had a chance for redemption as they headed to Vancouver with another 4 game win streak in hand on Friday.
With the weather in February looking more like winter in December, the team left on Thursday from Spokane hoping to find Snoqualmie Pass open and enough open road on the West Side of the state to make the journey as painless as possible. If nothing else, the Chiefs wanted an easier trip than Red Deer had from Spokane on Tuesday. After playing the Chiefs, the Rebels found I-90 closed at Snoqualmie, so they headed South to Portland to come back up I-5 for their game against Everett the next night. Unfortunately, an ice storm closed I-84 at Hood River and the team spent the night and most of the next morning in Oregon, forcing the postponing of their game in Everett that night. Spokane avoided that same fate on their drive to Vancouver Thursday, but did run into some major snow from outside Vantage all the way to the top of Snoqualmie. Fortunately, the snow flakes turned to rain over the pass, and the team found smooth sailing into Canada as the team arrived on time to their hotel in Langley, outside of Vancouver.
The team got in some good rest Thursday night and got a pre-game skate in Friday morning as the Chiefs looked for their first win of the season vs. the Giants. Spokane came out like they were ready for that first victory, as Luc Smith one timed a shot from between the circles on the power play just over 3 minutes into the game to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Eli Zummack picked up the assists, as A-D extended his points scoring streak to 9 in a row, and Zummack’s assist streak went to 10 straight; a season high for a Chief this year.
All that good feeling got wiped out just 15 seconds later as Vancouver scored right off the ensuing face-off after some poor defensive coverage from the Chiefs and the game was tied at one. The Giants then took the lead for good as it turned out, as they scored on their first power play late in the first to take a 2-1 lead after one. In the second, both teams were held off the board until the Chiefs took back to back penalties in the final minute and a half of the period. The Giants scored easily on the 5 on 3 to up the margin to 3-1. Then Vancouver scored on the 5 on 4 off a face-off to the right of goalie Reece Klassen in the final minute to take what seemed like a commanding 4-1 lead into the third.
After Spokane failed to score off a power play to start the third, it seemed the chances for a comeback were dead in the water for the Chiefs. Luc Smith would then start Spokane back in the game with his 2nd of the game on a shot on the right wing that deflected off a Giants defenders stick and in the net at the 3:47 mark to get the Chiefs within 4-2. Eli Zummack then scored his 12th of the year on a nice shot from the low left wing that beat Giants goalie Trent Miner under his blocker midway through the period to get Spokane within 4-3.
At this point, I really had a good feeling that Spokane would eventually tie the game. It looked like the Chiefs did just that with around 5 minutes left when Zummack’s shot off a 2 on 1 was stopped by Miner but the rebound deflected off Jake McGrew and into the net to tie the game at four. Upon video review, it was quite apparent McGrew kicked the puck in from the crease and the goal was waved off, keeping it a 4-3 Vancouver lead. Less than a minute later, the Chiefs squandered a good scoring chance and then failed to cover well as the Giants countered up the ice. Spokane left Jadon Joseph wide open between the circles, and the Vancouver forward buried the deciding goal with under 5 minutes left to give Van a 5-3 lead.
Spokane would get back within one as they pulled Klassen in the final minute and a half off a 4 on 4 to get the extra skater on. Riley Woods then re-directed a Nolan Reid shot pass in for his team leading 27th of the year with 1:10 left to bring the Chiefs within 5-4. It was as close as the Chiefs came though, as a couple of shots with the net empty were blocked and saved in the waning seconds, and Spokane saw their 4 game win streak come to an end with a 5-4 defeat.
Special teams were the difference on this night as Spokane’s league leading power play was just 1 for 7, while the penalty kill was a dismal 1 for 4. The Chiefs blew a golden chance to move within 4 points of second place Portland, and instead saw their lead over Tri City for 3rd shrink to 3 points. Now the team has to head out on an all night ride to Tri to face a rested Americans team Saturday night, who has not only a chance to get within one point of the Chiefs in the standings with a win, but have also beaten Spokane 5 of 7 meetings this year. Spokane has been in a word, awful, in Kennewick, going 0-3 while getting outscored 15-3 in those losses.
There’s no time to pout and feel sorry for themselves. Spokane now has to gut check and see what they’re made of. With just 14 games and 4 weeks left in the season, the Chiefs have to show if they’re made of a championship cloth or are just headed for another post season early exit. We’ll wait and see what happens tomorrow. For now, the border has been crossed, the roads look open through the state, so we’ll celebrate that and try to get some rest for Saturday’s tilt.

February 6th, 2019 at Kelowna

The road had not been kind to the Chiefs through most of early 2019. Since winning at Kootenay on January 5th, the team had dropped 4 straight away from the Spokane Arena to fall 2 games under .500 away from home this season. The start to the next Chiefs road game didn’t exactly get off to a swimming start, as Highway 97, the main road into Kelowna, was closed due to a rock slide. That meant the team had to head North through Stevens County and through Laurier and Rock Creek to take the ‘back door’ route to Kelowna on Tuesday, the day before the club’s game with the Rockets. The drive went smoothly enough, as the Chiefs arrived in Kelowna about 4:30 pm.
After a good night’s rest, the Chiefs got ready for game day with a game day skate at the rink. The team was without Noah King, who attended a family funeral at home, but the Chiefs welcomed back Matt Leduc from the injured list to solidify the blue line. Ty Smith was also back on the ice after taking a head first spill into the boards on Saturday in Portland. The team went with goalie Reece Klassen in goal after he was named the WHL’s goalie of the week after shutting out Kelowna last Friday for his first career shutout. It didn’t take long for Kelowna to break that scoreless streak as a shot from the right point eluded Klassen’s glove just 3:38 into the game to give the Rockets a 1-0 lead. Spokane answered right back though as Luke Toporowski scored on a rebound of his own shot from the right wing at 5:02 to tie the contest at one. Toporowski then gave the Chiefs the lead on a tip of a Jake McGrew shot on the power play at 15:08, making it 2-1 Spokane after one.
Kelowna came back and scored on the power play just over 2.5 minutes into the second on a pass that deflected off Chiefs defenseman Bobby Russell and into the net to tie it at 2-2. Spokane came right back as Connor Gabruch scored his first career goal on a rebound of a Ty Smith shot at 4:15 to give the Chiefs a 3-2 advantage. The Chiefs took a two goal lead on Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s 6th of the year on a blast from the left wing at 12:55 to make it 4-2 heading into the third.
The Rockets got back within one on another deflection net front off a Chief while on the power play just 23 seconds into the third to cut the margin to 4-3. Spokane answered back again as Jake McGrew tipped in a Leduc shot at 2:08 to put the Chiefs up 5-3. Kelowna cut the lead back to one again on a Nolan Foote short handed goal just over 7 minutes into the third, but Spokane held off the Rockets down the stretch with several key blocked shots to hang on to a 5-4 victory. The Chiefs scrambled defensively down the stretch, but made enough plays defensively to get their second straight win over the Rockets this week.
The victory pulled Spokane 3 points ahead of Tri City for 3rd in the U.S. Division and moved the team 9 points back of Portland for second. Toporowski had a big night with 2 goals and an assist, while his linemate McGrew went for a goal and an assist. The defense struggled at times, but made enough plays to get the two points in the team’s 50th game of the season. Just 18 games remain in the 2019 campaign, and now the team returns home to open a 3 game home stand on Friday with Victoria coming to town. Now is the time for the Chiefs to start playing to the level they’re capable and there’s no better time to start than in front of the fans at the Spokane Arena.

February 2nd, 2019 at Portland

The Spokane Arena proved to be home, sweet home for the Chiefs over the past week, as the club snapping a 5 game losing streak with a pair of impressive wins over Portland and Kelowna. The Chiefs outscored the Winterhawks and Rockets by a combined 11-2 margin and looked to be getting back on their game. Now the big question for Spokane was, could they play just as well on the road? After starting the season well away from the Arena, the Chiefs had struggled, dropping 3 straight, and had not won the road since January 5th at Kootenay.
After the team’s 4-0 shutout win over Kelowna on Friday, the Chiefs boarded the bus for the all night ride to Portland. The Chiefs arrived in the Rose City at the not so rosy hour of 4am, and after unloading the bus at the old Memorial Coliseum, the team got to the hotel and a short night of rest. Breakfast arrived early at 10 am, and after a pre-game meal of some of the best Teriyaki chicken I’ve had, the club walked over a little before 4pm for the 6pm contest. Portland had won at home the night before as they blanked Vancouver 3-0.
Spokane wanted a good start and they got it as Nolan Reid’s goal from the right point just over 3 minutes into the game got the Chiefs an early 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, the lead didn’t last as a turnover behind the Chiefs net led to Lane Gilliss scoring an easy goal from the left circle to tie the game at one. Spokane lost their co-captain, and top defenseman Ty Smith midway through the first when the Winterhawks leading scorer Joachim Blichfeld took Smith head first into the wall at center ice. Smith left the game for the duration, while Blichfeld was given a 5 minute major penalty. The Chiefs couldn’t capitalize on the 5 minute power play though as the game remained tied at one. Portland would score off a 2 on 1 on goalie Bailey Brkin with just 45 seconds left to lead it 2-1 after one.
Portland struck again just 20 seconds into the second period on a shot from the blue line to go up 3-1 and when the Chiefs took a penalty 29 seconds later, the game felt like it would blow open for the Winterhawks. Spokane got a huge penalty kill though, and started working their way back into the game. Egor Arbuzov scored off a pass from behind the net at 12:54 to get Spokane within 3-2. Reid then scored off a 4 on 4 with a blast from the point 2:01 later to get the Chiefs even at 3 apiece. The Hawks re-took the lead though on a power play tally with 4:28 left to lead it 4-3 after two.
Portland went back up by two on a Matt Quigley goal past a screened goalie Reece Klassen, who relieved Brkin starting the third. Back down by 2 again, the Chiefs started their comeback as Adam Beckman was credited with his 22nd of the season at 9:11 after Riley Woods rush to the net was denied by the Portland defense and the puck hit off a Winterhawks skate and into an open net. Spokane then got their fifth and final power play attempt less than 2 minutes later, and would convert for the first time as Filip Kral’s shot from the point found the net at 11:28 to tie the game at five.
The goal would force the first overtime of the season between the two and it was a dandy. Both teams got great chances to win as the action was back and forth and brought the crowd to its’ feet throughout. Unfortunately, no goals were scored and the two clubs headed to a shootout. Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored in round 1 to put the Chiefs ahead 1-0 after one. Portland’s Reece Newkirk scored in round two to even at 1-1 heading to the third. In the third round, Jake Gricius scored on a back hand to put Portland up 2-1, and when Riley Woods missed the net in round three, Spokane lost in a shootout for the third time in 4 tries this year as Portland won their 3rd game in 5 meetings with the Chiefs 6-5.
It was a bitter end to the modest winning streak, as the Chiefs showed a lot of heart and grit coming back from two 2 goal deficits to earn at least a point. The loss pushes the Chiefs 11 points back of Portland for second in the division though, and with just 19 games left on the schedule, it’s going to take a minor miracle for Spokane to catch Portland in the standings. It means the Chiefs will not have home ice for any of their playoff series, so there will challenges waiting in March. For now, the club will have to await the status of Smith to get their co-captain back in the lineup, and the Chiefs will have to find a way to win on the road as they’ve now lost 4 straight away from the Arena. Spokane will get their next chance to snap the road losing streak when they head to Kelowna this upcoming Wednesday, so let’s hope the team shuts down the Rockets on their ice they was Spokane did so at the Arena last Friday. For now, the team is on the bus heading through the rain in the Columbia Gorge, and I’m now ready to fall asleep. Rain always does that to me.

January 26th, 2019 at Tri City

One thing the fans never see is the toll the travel takes on a Western Hockey League team. It’s fairly routine for teams to make bus rides overnight after a physical game the night before and turn right around and play another contest the next evening. Every team has to do it, and last night it was the Chiefs turn. After the shutout loss in Kamloops, the Chiefs hit the road about 10:30 pm and took the all night ride to the Tri Cities. After a stop at the border about 2 am, the Chiefs arrived at their hotel around 6 am. Some of the staff took the bags to the rink to hang the gear after that, so it was about 7:30 am before I hit the hay for tonight’s game with the Americans. I skipped breakfast at 10 am, but did make the pre-game meal at 1:30 pm. All I could wonder was whether the Chiefs would have enough in the tank to get a win over a Tri City team that had dominated Spokane in Kennewick this season. The Americans had won both meetings, outscoring the Chiefs 11-2 in a pair of 6-1 blowouts.
A good start was essential for Spokane and they would get it. I thought the first 20 minutes were amongst the best the Chiefs have played this year. The Chiefs out shot Tri City 19-8. out hit the bigger Ams and controlled play through much of the period. Spokane also finally got a goal on the board as Adam Beckman finished off an odd man rush from Jaret Anderson-Dolan on a 4 on 4 late in the period to give Spokane a 1-0 lead after one. As good as Spokane was, a one goal lead is never comfortable one, especially on the road. That proved to be true on this night, as Tri City scored after the Chiefs failed to clear the puck just over 6 minutes into the second and the Ams scored on the rush to tie the game at one. Tri City then took the lead off another odd man rush late in the second as Riley Sawchuk scored from between the circles with just over 3 minutes remaining to give Tri City a 2-1 lead after two.
Spokane came out firing in the third, and would control play for most of the final 20 minutes. The Chiefs out shot the Americans 17-6 and had two power play chances, but could not find the net against Ams goalie Beck Warm. The frustration for the Chiefs grew even more when the Ams broke out of their zone and Kyle Olson finished off yet another odd man rush with about 4 minutes left to cap off a 3-1 Tri City victory. Spokane’s offensive woes continued as the Chiefs out shot Tri 48-31 in the game, but went 0-4 on the power play for the second straight night.
The Chiefs have now scored 4 goals…4…in their last 14.5 periods of hockey. Since putting up 3 in the first half of the first period against Vancouver, the totals have been 1 goal over two periods vs. Vancouver, 1 goal over 3 periods and an overtime vs. Tri City, 1 goal through 3 against Seattle, 0 over 3 vs. Kamloops and 1 goal in 3 periods against Tri City. Folks, that isn’t going to get you very many wins. In this case, it has got Spokane 5 straight losses. The Chiefs are now tied with Tri City for third in the division and are 10 points back of Portland for 2nd.
Spokane faces a critical week ahead as they host Portland and Kelowna, and then head to Portland on an all night ride on Saturday. The Chiefs had better start finding the net or their hopes for hosting home ice in a first round playoff series will go bye-bye. The Chiefs have now lost 5 of 7 to their biggest rivals in Tri this season, and Spokane better figure out some answers there too, or this season will finish a lottt earlier than it should for this club. There’s a lot of soul searching to be done on this team, and let’s hope the club starts to find some answers this week.

January 25th, 2019 at Kamloops

Having dropped 3 straight, and only scoring 3 goals over the last 8 plus periods, the Chiefs hoped that a jaunt North of the border to Canada would help the team find its’ offensive game again as Spokane headed to Kamloops to face the Blazers Friday night. The team had two days off after their disappointing 2-1 loss at Seattle Tuesday, so the Chiefs would have plenty of rest before hitting the ice again. Spokane headed to Kamloops on Wednesday from Seattle on a perfect day weather wise. Starting about 10:45 that morning after breakfast, the team arrived in Kamloops a little after 5 pm that night. An early dinner enabled the club to hit the hay at an early hour before practice on Thursday.
The Chiefs headed out of town for a practice on the outdoor rink at Sun Peaks Resort on Thursday as the team had an informal 3 on 3 tournament. It was a relaxed setting and a perfect sunny day for the club to not focus on the offensive woes that had plagued the team in their 3 game losing skein. Spokane was still without forwards Eli Zummack and Cordel Larson, but did welcome back Luc Smith in Kamloops. Smith was acquired from the Blazers for Jeff Faith the end of November and this game would mark his first back in Kamloops against his old teammates.
Spokane went with back up goalie Reece Klassen in goal, as Bailey Brkin had played the first game of the trip in Seattle. Klassen was coming off a great performance in a 2-1 shootout loss to Tri City in his last start, so the Chiefs were hoping for the same solid performance this time around. Unfortunately, Klassen’s teammates didn’t come out of the gate very strong on this night, as a turnvover at the Kamloops blue line led to a 2 on 1 the other way for the Blazers. Kamloops leading scorer, Zane Franklin, buried the chance off the odd man rush just 28 seconds into the game to make it 1-0 Blazers.
Things didn’t get any better later in the period as a shot from the blue line was tipped by Kamloops Connor Zary past Klassen at 8:01 to put the Blazers ahead 2-0. The Chiefs failed to score on 2 power play chances in the period and were out shot 15-10 after one. In the second, Spokane turned things around offensively, out shooting Kamloops 11-3. Unfortunately, the Chiefs couldn’t solve Blazer goalie Dylan Ferguson and still trailed by 2 goals heading into the third. Spokane’s Jake McGrew was denied on a breakaway early in the third, and then Kamloops Jermaine Loewen scored on a rebound 6:08 into the third to effectively put the game away at 3-0. The only suspense left was whether the Chiefs would avoid being shut out, and they certainly had their chances to prevent it. Spokane out shot Kamloops 16-7 in the third, 27-10 over the final 2 periods, but could not find the net on Ferguson. All of Spokane’s big guns offensively had dandy looks, including leading goal scorer Riley Woods, who was robbed by the glove of Ferguson late in the game on the power play.
At the end of the evening, Spokane had put up 37 shots and had over 50 scoring chances in the contest….and yet ended up being shut out for just the second time this season. From an offensive point of view, it was the most frustrating contest yet, as the team outplayed Kamloops in the game, but still lost by 3. The losing streak is now 4, matching the longest of the season, and team has scored just 3 goals in their last 11 plus periods of hockey. This team is way too talented to be going through a streak like this, and it will end eventually. Let’s just hope it’s sooner than later, starting tomorrow night at Tri City. The Americans were also blanked tonight, losing at home to Everett, so it will be interesting to see who breaks the ice offensively first on Saturday. For now though, it’s the 8 plus hour bus ride South and the hope the boys have enough energy to get off the losing streak tomorrow.

January 22nd, 2019 at Seattle

It had been two weeks since the Chiefs were on the road, as the club played a 4 game home stand at the Spokane Arena during that time. After starting the home stand with back to back wins, Spokane dropped a pair of games to Vancouver and Tri City that left the club 6 points back of second place Portland and just 2 ahead of 4th place Tri City in the U.S. Division standings. Spokane would look to get back on the winning side of the ledger as they headed out for a 3 game road trip starting in Seattle.
The Chiefs had won the first 5 contests in the 6 game regular season series between the two teams. Tuesday’s match up would be the first of the second half of the year though, as the two clubs had changed rosters a bit before the trade deadline earlier in January. Spokane was a bit shorthanded entering the game, as they were without forwards Eli Zummack, Luc Smith and Cordel Larson who were out either due to injury or personal matters. All 3 had been playing on the team’s top 2 lines, so the club was going to be challenged offensively entering their contest with a resurgent Seattle team that had won 4 of its’ last 5 games.
Spokane boarded the bus the day of the game and drove across the state that saw cloudy skies, rain or snow the entire way over. The team stopped in Ellensburg for a pre-game meal, and then hit snow outside Cle Elum that lasted until the bus got over Snoqualmie Pass. The weather didn’t slow the journey down and the team arrived to the ShoWare Center in Kent with plenty of time to spare. Bailey Brkin was back in net for the Chiefs after Reece Klassen had played extremely well in the previous game against Tri City.
The game didn’t start particularly well for the Chiefs as a breakdown in defensive coverage getting back in their zone led to Seattle scoring a goal just over 4 minutes in from Matt Wedman to make it 1-0 Thunderbirds. Seattle got a power play midway through the period and increased the offensive pressure, but Brkin and the defense held firm to keep it a one goal game. Spokane got a their first power play late in the period and would convert as Jake McGrew’s one timer from the left circle with 15 seconds remaining tied the game at one after the first period.
Any momentum built up after that goal disappeared 24 seconds into the second as a turnover inside the blue line led to Nolan Volcan snapping home a goal from between the circles to make it 2-1 Seattle. The Chiefs got their second…and last..power play opportunity late in the second, but failed to cash in as they found themselves down 2-1 after two. In the third, Spokane out shot Seattle 12-8, but failed to find the net. Jaret Anderson-Dolan had a net front chance with about 5 minutes left, but Seattle goalie Roddy Ross made a big save with the blocker to hand the Thunderbirds their only win in the 6 game season series 2-1.
The loss was Spokane’s third straight as their offensive woes continued. The Chiefs have now netted just 3 goals in their last 8 periods, far and away their biggest slump of the season. Chances haven’t lacked for the club, as the Chiefs have had over 70 scoring chances in their last two games alone, and yet have just two goals in their last two games. The team is a bit snake bitten right now, but one thing that has to change is this team’s commitment to going to the net. Getting the greasy goal in the areas in front of the goal is just plain hard work, and this team needs to get a lot better at that aspect. In the Seattle game alone, there were a dozen occasions where someone out net front could have pounced on a fat rebound and scored. When you don’t have anybody out front though, it makes for an easy clear for the defense. The team is expected to get Luc Smith back Friday in Kamloops, so let’s hope his net front game will help the Chiefs get out of their slump and back in the win column.

January 5th, 2019 at Kootenay

The Chiefs started 2019 in great shape as the team welcomed back Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Ty Smith and Filip Kral from the World Junior Tournament for Friday’s home game with Kamloops. Spokane grinded out a 4-1 win over the Blazers as all three players scored a point. With that win under their belt, the team headed out on the road for their first road game of the New Year as Spokane headed North to Cranbrook, B.C. to face the rebuilding Kootenay Ice.
There’s be a lottt of speculation that this will be the last year for the Ice in Cranbrook. New ownership from Winnipeg took over a couple of seasons ago and while they have tried upgrades to the building, the attendance figures have dropped each of the past few years. Nothing official has been announced, but newspaper reports from Winnipeg have said the team will re-locate there next season as the team will build a new rink South of the city. The articles have also said the team will play in the University of Manitoba’s rink until the new building is completed. The league has said nothing, but there is no question the WHL will address the matter at February’s Board of Governors meeting. If this game is the last for the Chiefs in Cranbrook, it will be a sad ending to a great rivalry in the league as Spokane and Cranbrook have fought it out since the senior hockey days back in the 1930″s. The 3.5 hour drive is the second closest trip for Spokane in the league and the two teams boosters regularly get buses for the games between the two. While I hope the Ice will find a way to stay in Cranbrook, reality is telling me this game is the final one for the Chiefs and Ice here in B.C.
Anyway, there was a game to be played, and the Chiefs were hoping to sweep their weekend contests as they faced the Ice for the 4th time this year. Spokane had won the previous three, but had to hold off Kootenay in overtime at the Spokane Arena in the two club’s last tilt. There was a good crowd on hand for this Saturday contest and the Chiefs fed off of it, as Spokane would strike for two goals just 1:22 apart off a 4 on 4 midway through the first. Noah King got things started with his second goal as a Chief with a shot from the left side at 7:02 to make it 1-0 Spokane. Luke Toporowski followed with a solo effort up ice and then snapped home his second goal in as many nights at 8:24 to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead. Kootenay would score with just over 5 minutes left in the period to cut the margin to 2-1 at the end of the first.
Spokane would come out in the second and play their best period of the night. Ty Smith, who would end the night with 4 assists, one off of his career high, would keep the puck in the offensive zone with a great play at the blue line. He then hit Jake McGrew, who would drive net front and shot from between his legs to score a goal in his 4th straight game to put Spokane up 3-1. Jaret Anderson-Dolan then scored on the Chiefs final power play of the game with a shot from between the circles at 12:53 to make it 4-1. Ethan McIndoe then capped a three goal second with a shot off a pass from Luc Smith to give the Chiefs a commanding 5-1 lead after two.
Luc Smith’s rebound goal at 3:38 of the third put Spokane up 6-1, but Kootenay would score a power play goal just over 4 minutes later to cut the lead to 6-2. Back came Spokane as 15 year old rookie defenseman Graham Sward, the team’s #1 pick this year, scored off a face off win from the left blue line for his first career goal in his first game to make it a 7-2 game. The Ice scored two quick goals to cut the lead to 7-4, but McGrew scored his second of the night with just over a minute left to wrap up an 8-4 victory and give the Chiefs their 4th win in as many tries over Kootenay.
It was a nice win for the club as the offensive firepower this team has was on display a lottt on this night. There’s still some work to be done defensively, but once those areas are tightened up, this club could be very dangerous come playoff time. Spokane is still 3 points back of Portland for second in the division and I’ll be curious to see how the full line up fares against some of the top teams in the West in the second half. Now the club heads home to Spokane to open a 4 game home stand and let’s hope it is part of a great start to 2019 for the Chiefs.

December 31, 2018 at Tri City

Throwing in the 10 day Christmas break, it had been 2.5 weeks since the Chiefs had boarded the bus and played away from the Spokane Arena. Having won their last road game back on the 14th at Seattle, and coming off a dramatic last second win over Tri City on Saturday, the Chiefs hit the road for the final time in the year of 2018 as they made the trek down Highway 395 for their annual New Year’s Eve game with the Americans in Kennewick. Tri has generally owned the Chiefs in this game over the years, winning the last two seasons.
Spokane hoped to change that and secure their second straight win over the Americans in 3 days. The Chiefs headed South on pretty mild day weather wise as there was hardly any snow on the ground the entire journey to the Tri Cities. That does not happen often by the end of December. Spokane went with Bailey Brkin in net once again after his 18 save performance in the 2-1 win over Tri on Saturday. The Chiefs were still without Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Ty Smith and Filip Kral as they were away at the World Junior Tournament.
A quick start is always helpful and the Chiefs came out with the first 4 shots of the game as they looked good in the first 5 minutes. Turnovers are usually the story in most hockey games, as the team that can take advantage the most of their opportunities usually win. That would certainlyyy be the case on this night. Defenseman Bobby Russell, in his first game back from a 2 game suspension, was checked off the puck behind his net and the puck found its’ way to an open Paycen Bjorklund, who scored his first goal of the year 6:58 in to make it 1-0 Tri City. Just 44 seconds later, another turnover on the right wall led to a shot that deflected off Jarod Newell for his first WHL goal and suddenly it was a 2-0 game. Spokane was on its’ heels from that point on, as Tri made it a 3-0 game as Kyle Olson scored off yet another turnover at the Chiefs blue line. Tri City only out shot Spokane 9-6 in the period, but 3 key mistakes put the Chiefs in a hole they couldn’t get out.
The second period was a special teams disaster as Spokane failed to score on 3 power plays and to add to the misery, coughed up back to back short handed goals to Parker AuCoin to make it 5-0 after two. The first came on a turnover that led to AuCoin snapping home a shot from the right wing midway through the period. The second was Olson stealing the puck in the Chiefs zone, getting a shot on goal and AuCoin cleaning up the rebound in the final 2 minutes of the period to effectively put the game away.
Campbell Arnold entered for Brkin in the third period in his season debut, and played well in the final 20 minutes. Arnold stopped 10 of 11 shots with the only miscue coming after he turned the puck over behind his own net, and Blake Stevenson scored on a wrap around into the open net short handed to make it a 6-0 game. Spokane would salvage some dignity in the final 30 seconds as Jack Finley fed the puck from behind the net to an open Jake McGrew, who scored in his second straight game vs. the Ams to wrap up a 6-1 game.
The 3 short handed goals given up matched the entire season total given up by the Chiefs. The team managed just 9 shots through 2 periods, as Tri City played a more passionate game and physically controlled the play after the back to back goals in the first put them up 2-0. Spokane has now dropped 3 of 4 to their arch rivals this season, and with 8 more meetings set over the final 31 games this year, the Chiefs better figure out a way to win some of these games, or they’re heading to a 4th place division finish. The team is now 3 back of Portland for second as well as being just 4 points up on Tri City. With 3 winnable games on the schedule coming up. it’s time for the team to step up its’ game as they head home to play Kamloops in the first game of 2019.

December 14, 2018 at Seattle

Coming off a huge home win with a shootout victory over division and conference leading Everett on Wednesday, the Chiefs hit the road for the final time in the first half of the season as they headed over the mountains to face Seattle on Friday. The team left a day early on Thursday to A) beat the weather, and B) get some rest the night before and the day off the game with the Thunderbirds. Spokane had won the previous three meetings with Seattle coming in, but were without defensemen Ty Smith and Filip Kral, who were off to the World Junior Tournament in Canada. Seattle is always tough on their home ice, and were coming off a home win over Prince George earlier in the week.
The Chiefs went with Bailey Brkin in net again, after his win over Everett. Spokane’s top rated power play went to work midway through the first period hoping to get the Chiefs the early lead, but a turnover in the neutral zone led to a breakaway from Nolan Volcan, who scored in his 10th straight game to give Seattle a 1-0 lead. Spokane would get their second man advantage late in the first, but would convert this time. Luke Toporowski went on the rush up the left wing and hit Jake McGrew streaking towards the net. McGrew re-directed the puck under the bar with 59 seconds left in the period to even the game at one heading into the second.
It marked the second straight game the Chiefs scored in the final minute of the first to tie the game at 1-1 moving into the second, and gave Spokane a big lift. That became evident early in the second when Adam Beckman’s shot found its’ way to the front of the Seattle net, and McGrew took the loose puck and snapped home his second of the night just 1:35 into the period to make it 2-1. Seattle answered right back though as a blocked shot by Volcan at his blue line led to another breakaway…and another goal..as the T-Birds tied the game at 2 at the 8:15 mark. Back came the Chiefs, as just 1:21 later, Beckman scored on a rebound of a McGrew shot from the low right circle to give the lead back to Spokane at 3-2. A careless turnover by the Chiefs in front of their net with just over 2 minutes left in the second helped Seattle re-tie the game at three.
Just when it looked like the game was headed to the third even, Seattle goalie Liam Hughes got the puck behind his own net. A miscommunication with his defenseman led to Hughes back handing a pass right to an open Eli Zummack, who came to the left post and stuffed the puck into the open net with only 14 seconds left in the period to give the Chiefs a 4-3 lead after two. It turned out to be the play of the game, as Spokane buckled down defensively in the third, as Brkin turned away all 13 Seattle shots in the period. McGrew would cap his second career hat trick with an empty net goal in the final 30 seconds to wrap up a 5-3 victory, and give the Chiefs their 4th straight win over Seattle this season, and clinch the season series.
The win also lifted Spokane into a tie with Portland for second place in the U.S. Division and allowed the Chiefs to stay 14 back of Everett for the division lead. The Chiefs weren’t very good in their puck management for much of the game tonight as Seattle’s fore check pressure bothered Spokane much of the night. The team did enough to get the victory though, and now get a nice day off before hosting Seattle for the final game of the first half of the season. Last year, Seattle hammered Spokane heading into the holiday break on the Chiefs home ice, so let’s hope the club learned the lessons taught last year of looking ahead to the holiday break before taking care of business.

December 9, 2018 at Everett

After the loss in Everett the previous Wednesday had capped a 3 game road trip that had netted the Chiefs all of 1 point in the standings, Spokane had returned home and taken care of business with back to back home wins over Lethbridge and Kootenay. Saturday’s come from behind win over the Ice was capped by an overtime goal from Eli Zummack and gave the Chiefs a chance to get their first 3 wins in 3 nights stretch all season.
Standing in the way were the first place Silvertips, who had won the last two meetings in Everett over Spokane, including the 4-2 victory five days previous. Spokane had fallen behind 3-0 in that game before cutting the deficit to 3-2 and giving up an empty net goal to lose by two. The team was determined to get off to a much better start in their final trip to Everett this regular season.
The team left a little after 8 in the morning Sunday for the 4 pm game in Everett. After lunch in Ellensburg, the cloudy skies became rainy ones over the pass, as it rained the entire time the Chiefs were on the West Side. Bailey Brkin was back in net for the Chiefs after getting the night off against Kootenay. Brkin was sharp in the first period, as he turned away all 13 Everett shots to keep the game scoreless after one. Spokane had the only power play in the period but failed to score. As it turns out, it was the last power play of the night for the Chiefs.
The second period would see Brkin save all 16 Everett shots as the Chiefs penalty kill went a perfect 2 or 2 to keep it a 0-0 contest through 40 minutes. The first 15 minutes of the third were also scoreless as the two teams slugged it out defensively. The breakthrough came with less than 5 minutes left as the Chiefs failed to clear on two occasions they had the puck in their defensive zone. Everetty’s Wyatt Wylie’s shot from the right point led to Bryce Kindopp tipping in the shot from the right post to give Everett a 1-0 lead. It was the only goal to get by Brkin all night and there was absoulutely nothing he could have done about it.
The Chiefs pulled Brkin in the final 2 minutes, but Kindopp sealed the deal with an empty net tally with 11 seconds left to wrap up a 2-0 victory. The win was the 4th in 5 meetings for Everett with the Chiefs this season, and left Spokane 15 points back of the Silvertips in the U.S. Division. Spokane also loses defensemen Ty Smith and Filip Kral to World Junior Tournament camps this week for the next 3 to 4 weeks. It will tough to overcome the loss of 2 of the team’s top 4 D-men over a stretch heavy with U.S. Division games. Everett comes to the Arena on Wednesday and I just hope the club plays with the same defensive intensity and passion they showed on this night. Offensively, Spokane has to become better at battling for net front position, because the Chiefs have not scored an even strength goal against Everett in their last 3 games. Let’s hope that changes on Wednesday.

December 5, 2018 at Everett

At the start of this three game road trip, the Chiefs had visions of putting themselves in contention for the top of the U.S. Division as they had two games at first place Everett and one at second place Portland. The first two games had resulted in just 1 point in 4 after an overtime loss at Everett and a regulation loss at Portland. Now the team had a chance to gain two points back on the Silvertips as they faced Everett on the Tips home ice for the second time in 6 days. After the beat down the team took in Portland the previous Saturday, the Chiefs were hoping to get off to a much better start on Wednesday.
The club left late morning the day of the game with ideal weather. The drive over could not have gone more smoothly as only a bit of traffic getting on I-5 held the club up time wise. The Chiefs also welcomed a new member to the club as defenseman Noah King joined the team after a trade with Swift Current. Forward Carter Chorney was dealt in exchange, as the Chiefs added a veteran D-man to help out when Spokane loses defensemen Ty Smith and Filip Kral to the World Juniors next Monday. The Chiefs went with Bailey Brkin in goal, as the club looked to snap their two game losing streak.
The first period was back and forth as the teams didn’t have a lot of great scoring chances. Everett got two of the three power plays in the period, and broke through when Jackson Berezowski scored on a rebound net front through Brkin’s pads late in the first to give Everett a 1-0 lead after one. The Silvertips extended the lead just over a minute and a half into the second when Bryce Kindopp got behind the Chiefs defense and scored on a breakaway to make it a 2-0 game. Everett converted their second power play goal of the night on a Jake Christiansen shot past a screened Brkin midway through the period to go up 3-0. The Chiefs penalty kill buckled down late in the second, turning aside a 47 second 5 on 3 and killing off 2 Tips power plays to keep it 3-0 after two.
Spokane scored on their first power play chance of the third as Luc Smith put a perfect pass to an open Ethan McIndoe net front just 48 seconds in to bring the Chiefs within 3-1. The Chiefs then converted their next power play attempt midway through the third when Riley Woods scored on a rebound to get Spokane to 3-2. The club didn’t get another power play…or any closer…as the Silvertips shut down Spokane offensively from there. Everett capped the scoring with a Sean Richards goal into an empty net from center ice with less than 2 minutes remaining to cap off a 4-2 victory.
For the third straight game, Spokane was held under 30 shots as they were out chanced 37-27 in the contest. Special teams were even as the Chiefs used their 2 third period power play goals left them 2-4 on the game, and 4-6 on the penalty kill. Brkin was very good in goal and King was rock solid in his debut on the blue line. Key mistakes defensively at inopportune times and a lack of consistent offense doomed the team on this night as Spokane has now lost 3 in a row and are 15 points back of Everett in the division.
The chances of catching the Silvertips are next to zero as Spokane would have to rip off 11-12 wins in a row while the Tips would have to go on a 5 to 6 game losing streak. It’s highlyyy unlikely either will happen. Spokane has to worry about the teams behind them. Tri City is just 2 points back of the third place Chiefs and unless Spokane turns things around this weekend at home with Lethbridge and Kootenay, the team could find themselves in fourth before the weekend is over.

December 1, 2018 at Portland

Coming off a disappointing overtime loss at Everett the night before, the Chiefs headed South on I-5 for their first trip to Portland this season. Spokane came into the contest 2 points ahead of the Winterhawks for second place in the U.S. Division, and with Portland off last night, the Chiefs knew they would come out flying at Spokane with an opportunity to tie for second. Throw in the fact it was the Winterhawks teddy bear toss night, and it was guaranteed to be a lively building Saturday.
Spokane had lost 8-6 to Portland the last time the two teams played in Spokane in early November, so the Chiefs were hoping to shore things up defensively this time around. The team had played well in their own zone, with the exception of a 7 minute span late in the game at Everett. Unfortunately, that trend followed the Chiefs into their contest in Portland. The Hawks scored just 2:10 into the game on a rebound net front to launch the teddy bears and give Portland a 1-0 lead. After the clean up, Portland scored again at 3:43 on a soft goal to go up 2-0. The Winterhawks then converted their first power play with a nice tip net front at 8:37 to take a 3-0 lead after one.
The second period would see Bailey Brkin replace Dawson Weatherill in net, but Portland struck again just 3:59 in to go ahead 4-0. The Chiefs would get on the board when Filip Kral scored for the second straight game with a power play goal midway through the second to cut the lead to 4-1. Jake McGrew then finished off a rush with his 7th of the season at 16:11 to bring Spokane within 4-2. The building got real quiet at that point and it felt like the Chiefs were on the verge of getting right back into the game and leaving Portland a little nervous heading into the third.
Spokane shot themselves in the foot…and elsewhere…just over a minute and a half later though, as a turnover in mid-ice led to a Portland rush and an easy goal at 17:53 to make it 5-2 Winterhawks. Yet another turnover gave Portland a breakaway a minute later, and just like that the Hawks had re-gained a 4 goal lead at 6-2 and put an end to the Chiefs comeback plans. The third would see Portland score two more goals, the last one coming with Portland down 2 to 4 in the Chiefs zone, yet still able to win a puck and get an open shot net front. Portland thumped Spokane 8-2 as the Winterhawks scored 8 on the Chiefs for the second straight time, and moved into a tie with the Chiefs for second in the U.S. Division.
I won’t mince words. This game was a step backwards for this team. After showing defensive commitment in their 3 game win streak, that disappeared in this game tonight. It was a total team loss as there wasn’t one facet played well. Offensively, the club put up a season low 20 shots. Defensively, there was a big lack of physical play and desperation. The goaltending was spotty at best, and the special teams were OK. Going 1-2 on the power play was the highlight of the night, and when that is the case, you know things didn’t go well. Now the team has to take a serious look in the mirror and ask if they’ll take the steps to get better before Wednesday’s game in Everett. The Silvertips now own a 13 point lead over the Chiefs, with a chance to make it 15 with a win in Portland tomorrow. That makes the next meeting a mussttt win for Spokane if they have any hopes of catching Everett. We’ll certainly see what this club is made of come mid-week.

November 30, 2018 at Everett

After sweeping a pair of home games over Kamloops and Prince George, the Chiefs headed back on the road as they returned to Everett after beating the Silvertips in overtime 12 days earlier. With the wins, Spokane was on a season high 3 game win streak, but found themselves 10 points back of the division leading Silvertips. Everett had ripped off 5 wins in their last 6 games, with their only loss coming to the Chiefs in that overtime decision back on the 18th.
The team left the day of the game as a wet snow greeted the team outside Cheney on the way out of town. The weather cleared though, as it was sunny past Moses Lake and stayed that way until the mountains. There was no more snow though, and the trip went about as smoothly as you could ask until the bus had to come to an abrupt stop in traffic just outside Everett. The cooler flew forward and smashed into the front of the bus, but other than some spilled ice, all was well. It certainly served as a good wake up call for the club as they headed into their 3rd game of the season with Everett.
The Chiefs started Dawson Weatherill in goal after Bailey Brkin had won the last 3 games in net. Spokane came out in the first period and played one of their better periods of the season. The Chiefs converted their first power play as Eli Zummack took a great Riley Woods pass from the left goal line, got open between the circles and snapped home his 8th of the year 2:41 into the game to put Spokane up 1-0. The Chiefs then scored on their second power play chance as Luc Smith scored his first goal as a Chief at 10:03 to make it 2-0 Spokane. The Chiefs had several chances to expand the lead in the last half of the period, but couldn’t find the net as they took their 2 goal advantage to the second.
Everett cut the lead in half as the Chiefs failed to clear the puck net front during a Silvertips power play early in the second as Riley Sutter slid the puck through Weatherill’s pads 1:48 in to cut the lead to 2-1. Despite being out shot 16-9 in the period, Spokane took the one goal lead to the third. The Chiefs re-took a 2 goal lead early in the third as Filip Kral picked up a rebound on a Spokane power play and fired home the Chiefs third power play goal of the night just over 4 minutes in to give Spokane a 3-1 lead. Everett cut the lead to 3-2 on a shot from the left side midway through the period and then tied the game when the puck came off the low wall, past a Chiefs defender and right to the stick of Akash Bains between the circles, who beat Weatherill to make it 3-3 at 13:26. Everett took their first lead just over 4 minutes later when the puck was poked by Kral at the Everett blue line and Martin Fasko-Rudas beat Weatherill with just under 2.5 minutes left to give the Tips a 4-3 advantage.
Things looked bleak for the Chiefs as they went into the last half minute of play, but with the extra skater on, Spokane got a shot by Luc Smith that rang off the post with under 30 seconds left. The rebound came out to Ty Smith on the left wing and his shot was tipped by Ethan McIndoe past Everett goalie Dustin Wolf with just 15 seconds left to tie the game at 4. It was a huge boost for the Chiefs as they forced overtime for the second straight trip into Everett.
After winning in OT the last time in Everett, the team had to be riding high with confidence. That feeling lasted all of 53 seconds. A turnover off a pass out of the offensive zone from Ty Smith lead to Everett’s Connor Dewar picking up the loose puck and skating in on Weatherill and scoring easily to lift the Silvertips to a 5-4 victory. It was a bitter pill to swallow as the team collapsed defensively over the final 20 plus minutes of play, surrendering 4 goals over that period of time after giving up just 1 goal in their previous 5 periods of play.
Spokane is now 11 points back of Everett for first in the division, while the club does gain a point to go up by 2 over third place Portland. The Chiefs will now head down I-5 to play in Portland tomorrow night with the hopes of finding their game defensively and getting back in the win column. Spokane has split a pair of home games with the Winterhawks, losing the last time out in a horrible display of defense, 8-6. The team will have to be a lotttt better tomorrow night in their own end, or it’s going to be a long ride home to Spokane.

November 18, 2018 at Everett

Traveling on the third game in three nights can be pretty tiring, even for the best of hockey teams. It’s a true test for a team, not just physically, but mentally, for a club to size up and see just what they’re made of. The Chiefs got the chance to do just that as they headed to first place Everett Sunday after splitting a two game home stand the previous two nights against Seattle and Calgary. After a nice performance Friday in a 4-2 over the Thunderbirds, the Chiefs were pretty flat in a 5-1 loss Saturday to Calgary. The Chiefs knew they were in a tough spot as they headed to Everett to take on a Silvertips squad, which had blown out Spokane 6-2 at the Arena earlier in November. The Tips had opened up a 7 point lead on Spokane in the standings, so Sunday’s game was huge for the Chiefs to stay in the U.S. Division race.
Spokane got up early Sunday morning and made the same day trip to Everett. It was a perfect day out, as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky across Washington. The Chiefs went with Bailey Brkin in goal in his first start in two weeks after Dawson Weatherill had started the previous four games for Spokane. In the two teams previous meeting in Spokane, Everett jumped out to 3-0 lead after one and were up 5 after two, as Spokane gave the Silvertips 7 power play chances in the game. Things were different this time around, as the Chiefs drew first blood in the power play. Riley Woods drove the puck past two Everett defenders at the blue line and ripped a shot from the left circle to give Spokane a 1-0 lead at 6:24 of the first period. The Chiefs went back on the power play less than two minutes later, and Woods would score his second of the night on a tip from between the circles on a pass from Eli Zummack at 8:42 to make it 2-0 Spokane.
That goal led Everett to replace starting goalie Max Palaga and bring in regular starter Dustin Wolf. It looked like the Chiefs had made it 3-0 when Adam Beckman scored on a back hand less than 3 minutes later, but Luke Toporowski was whistled for a slash as the pass was made to Beckman, so the goal was waved off. The momentum swung in Everett’s favor as Wyatte Wylie scored on the ensuing power play midway through the period to cut the Chiefs lead to 2-1 after the first. The Silvertips kept it going in the second as an errant pass from the Chiefs was picked off by Dawson Butt and the Tips forward scored 6 minutes into the frame to tie the game at 2 apiece.
Spokane struggled offensively in the second and third, getting out shot 28-15 over the final 40 minutes, but Bailey Brkin kept the Chiefs in the game with 27 saves, including on all 15 Everett shots in the third, to force overtime with the game tied at 2. The Chiefs had won their last road game in OT when Luke Toporowski scored in Seattle. This time around, it was Woods to the rescue, as his slap shot from the left wing at 2:27 beat Dustin Wolf on the glove side to give Spokane a hard earned 3-2 victory over the first place Silvertips.
After losing a two goal lead and having their offense go pretty silent over the final 40 minutes of regulation, the Chiefs got outstanding goal tending from Brkin and a career first hat trick from Woods to rebound after a disappointing effort the night before against Calgary at home. Spokane moved within a point of second place Portland, as the team will now get some much needed rest all week before their lone game Saturday at home against Kamloops. Here’s to hoping the Thanksgiving holiday is a joyous one!

November 13, 2018 at Seattle

With an impressive win in Victoria, the Chiefs headed South to look to end the 3 game road trip on a winning note as they faced Seattle for the second time this season. In the two teams first meeting, Spokane held the Thunderbirds to 23 shots on their way to a 4-1 victory on October 30th at the Spokane Arena. Seattle had struggled since then, having dropped 5 in a row heading into the match up Tuesday. The Chiefs held a 5 point lead over Seattle in the standings, and knew the T-Birds would come out firing to narrow the deficit in the standings.
The Chiefs had 2 days off between the final game in Victoria and the contest in Seattle, so they got the chance to rest and relax on the travel day Sunday before getting a practice day on Monday.
The weather was reallyyy nice in Kent over the two days, as sunshine and temps in the low 60’s greeted the team over the stay. With Dawson Weatherill’s performance in Victoria, he once again got the start in Seattle. The team was still without Jake McGrew and Luke Gallagher due to their injuries suffered in Victoria, but the club welcomed back center Jack Finley, who returned after the Under 17 tournament in Canada. Spokane had lost 3 of 4 in Seattle last season, and with a rowdy Two for Tuesday night crowd, the Chiefs wanted to get out to a strong start.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, as a breakdown in defensive coverage off a D-Zone face-off left Seattle’s Peyton Mount wide open net front. Mount walked in and scored on a back hander just over 3 minutes into the game to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead. That advantage held up over 20 minutes as the Chiefs failed to score on two power play chances as Seattle goalie Liam Hughes was sharp between the pipes. The second period went just like the first as a bad pinch in the offensive zone led to a Seattle 2 on 1 into the Chiefs end. Zach Andrusiak finished off the opportunity just over 3 minutes into the second and it was 2-0 Seattle. Spokane failed on 2 more power plays in the period as they were down 2 heading into the third.
The Chiefs were 0-5 this season when trailing after two periods, and with the way Hughes was playing, Spokane was going to need to do some major work in the third. Spokane had scored a power play goal in 12 straight games coming in, and they would make it 13 a little over 7 minutes into the third when Ethan McIndoe banged home a rebound of a Ty Smith shot to bring the Chiefs within 2-1. Weatherill was sharp in net, making 3 big saves in the period to keep the deficit at just one goal.
Spokane kept the pressure up offensively and would finally break through with just over 3 minutes left in the game when Eli Zummack took the puck on the right wing, went to the goal line and found an open Ty Smith streaking in between the circles. Smith rocketed home his third of the season and the Chiefs would force overtime at 2-2. In the OT, Weatherill denied a 2 on 0 breakaway to keep Spokane alive midway through the extra session. The Chiefs then broke through for their first win in OT in 4 tries as Luke Toporowski’s shot went off a Seattle defenseman’s stick and over Hughes at 3:58 to give Spokane a come from behind 3-2 victory.
It was perfect cap off to the 3 game road trip as the Chiefs moved past Tri City into third place in the division with the win. Smith extended his points scoring streak to 7 straight with a 3 point performance, and Weatherill played his best game of the season with a season high 37 saves in net. It’s the kind of win that should boost the team going forward, especially if they fall behind in a game. Not to mention, it’s always big to win in overtime. Now the team is on the bus heading home after a week on the road. A tough weekend awaits with 3 games in 3 nights, so let’s see if the Chiefs can keep things rolling as they host Seattle again on Friday.

November 10, 2018 at Victoria

Probably the best thing the Chiefs could hope for after their loss in Victoria was the fact they didn’t have to wait long to get a chance to redeem themselves. Spokane didn’t have a lot of time to stew about the previous night’s 7-5 loss to the Royals as the two teams were back on the ice the very next evening. The Chiefs not only lost on the ice Friday, but also lost forward Jake McGrew and defenseman Luke Gallagher to injury, as both were out of the lineup Saturday. The team called up their 2nd round pick Owen MacNeil from his team in Alberta to help out in the depth department. The Chiefs also moved defenseman Bobby Russell to the front lines as it was an all hands on deck mentality for the team in the re-match.
The weather was perfect Saturday as blue skies and sunshine were present allll day in Victoria. It was a bit chilly as the wind was blowing throughout the day, but the team still got a chance to relax as they looked to snap their season high 3 game losing streak. The Chiefs went with Dawson Weatherill in net after his relief appearance the night before. After seeing Victoria score two goals in the first two minutes the night before, Spokane would keep the Royals in check early. The Chiefs would then score first as Riley Woods scored his 5th goal in his last 3 games from Tyson Feist 5:57 in to give the team a 1-0 lead. Woods drove the puck hard to the net and slipped the puck past goalie Griffen Outhouse for his team leading 15th of the season.
Spokane had a chance to extend the lead on the power play midway through the period, but a turnover at the Victoria blue line led to a breakaway short handed goal by the Royals Phillip Schultz that tied the game at one. The Chiefs made sure on their next power play chance in the period, as Luke Toporowski sniped a shot from the left side to the far top corner to give Spokane a 2-1 lead. The goal was initially not called, but after replay during the next time out, it was clear Toporowski had scored and the goal was allowed. Defenseman Filip Kral, who was in his 5th game back after off season surgery, got the Chiefs a huge insurance goal on a shot from the left point with 1:07 remaining in the first to give Spokane a 3-1 lead after one.
It didn’t take long for the Chiefs to extend the lead in the second as Eli Zummack scored just 9 seconds into the period to put Spokane up 4-1. Victoria would score on a rebound midway through the second to cut the margin to 4-2, but Egor Arbuzov countered with his 2nd goal of the season on a shot from the point to give the Chiefs a commanding 5-2 lead heading to the third. Victoria looked to cut the lead on a power play goal midway through the third, but the goal was waved off after replay showed the puck had never crossed the goal line and had hit the post and came out. The Chiefs settled in after that and would score two empty net goals. Cordel Larson scored the first on a great individual effort, and then Carter Chorney scored a short handed empty netter with 1:45 left to cap off a 7-2 victory.
Spokane’s penalty kill was huge for a second straight night, going a perfect 6 for 6, while the power play was an efficient 1 for 3. Weatherill played his best game of the season with a 30 save performance, including several point blank saves while the Chiefs were short handed. Woods had another huge night offensively, going for three more points, as he has scored 10 points in his last 5 games on 5 goals and 5 assists. It was a great bounce back win for Spokane as they evened the season series with the Royals. The win also allowed the Chiefs to keep pace with both first place Everett and second place Portland as they both won tonight. Spokane is now in third by a point over Tri City and pulled 5 points ahead of Seattle in the standings. A trip to Seattle is next up for Spokane as they head there Tuesday night, so let’s hope the team can extend their lead over the Thunderbirds with a win to finish up the road swing.

November 9, 2018 at Victoria

It had been three weeks since the Chiefs were on the road, as the team had spent the past 5 games at home against opponents from their U.S. Division. After winning 2 of the first 3, Spokane was humbled with a pair of defeats to Everett and Portland as the Chiefs surrendered 7 power play goals and 14 goals total. The news didn’t get any better off the ice, as the team found out they would lose last year’s leading scorer Jaret Anderson-Dolan for 6 to 8 weeks after wrist surgery. With Anderson-Dolan out until the New Year, the team needs to find some scoring from some of the younger players to compensate. Spokane also needs to find some defensive commitment, as the club was way too lax in their own zone at the end of the home stand.
With that, the Chiefs headed out to Victoria for their annual two game trip to face the Royals. Last season, Spokane split the two game set, winning the last match up behind a two goal night from Eli Zummack. The team headed out bright and early Thursday morning for the all day trip to Victoria. With the ferry ride, the journey took about 11 hours before the team got to rink to unload their gear for the following days game. The weather was perfect all the way over, which certainly helped in the time department. The team was met by defenseman Ty Smith in the lobby as they unloaded at the hotel after Smith arrived from Vancouver, where he had played in the Team WHL-Russia series. Smith had scored the only goal for the WHL in the Vancouver game, so the team was hoping some of that scoring would follow him into Victoria.
Friday started as a rainy day, but quickly cleared out once lunch time came around. With the injury to Anderson-Dolan, the club is carrying the minimum 12 forwards to play up front. After taking the losses in the two games the previous weekend, Bailey Brkin was back in net for Spokane, hoping to snap his two game losing streak. The Chiefs had not lost more than 2 in a row all season, and were hoping to keep that intact in facing the Royals. Things did not start well from the opening face off, as Victoria scored just 9 seconds into the game on a shot from the goal line that went right over Brkin’s shoulder and in the net. The next shot of the Royals also found the net, as a wobbler from the blue line from D Jay Jerome got past Brkin 1:55 in and it suddenly 2-0 Royals.
That goal spelled the end of the night for Brkin, as Dawson Weatherill relieved him for the 2nd time in 3 games in the first period. Spokane got a spark as Riley Woods scored 58 seconds after Jerome’s goal to cut the deficit to 2-1. Victoria would score late in the period to re-claim a two goal lead, but Woods countered right back with his second of the night at 18:15 to bring Spokane within 3-2 after the first. The Chiefs were out shot 16-6 in the first, and without Woods one man show, would have been out of the game after 20 minutes. Spokane was still in it though, but would fall behind by 2 goals once again a Victoria scored midway through the second to make it 4-2. The Chiefs got their first power play chance of the game late in the period, and would capitalize as Luke Toporowski scored on a rebound of a Nolan Reid shot at 17:02 to get within 4-3. But Spokane would serve up a back breaking goal with just 56 seconds remaining in the second after a turnover and missed defensive assignment to trail 5-3 after two.
Critical mistakes were costing the Chiefs and the team was hoping to cut those out in the third. The period started well for Spokane as Ethan McIndoe scored his 5th of the year just 2:38 into the third to bring the Chiefs within 5-4. It was as close as Spokane got. Victoria would get two goals in a 3:23 span midway through the third to blow the game open at 7-4. Carter Chorney scored 36 seconds after the Royals last goal to make it 7-5, but despite pulling Weatherill in the final 3 minutes, Spokane fell short by 2. The Chiefs out shot Victoria 16-5 in the third, but could only come out of the period at 2-2 with the Royals.
It capped a frustrating night for the Chiefs, as a lot went wrong for this club. Shaky goaltending to start, followed by some lax defense at critical moments in the comeback, and then finished off with a combination of the two in the third added up to Spokane’s first 3 game losing streak of the season. While the special teams play was cleaned up from the previous two games, the five on five play was sporadic at best. There’s a lot to improve with this hockey team right now, and it’s not going to be fixed overnight. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they are right back on the ice tomorrow night here in Victoria, so there’s little time to right the ship. Let’s just hope the team starts a lot better than they did tonight in tomorrow’s game.

October 20, 2018 at Prince Albert

Coming off a disappointing overtime loss the night before in Saskatoon, the Chiefs had to gather themselves and summon up one last bit of energy as they finished off their 6 game road trip through the East Saturday night in Prince Albert. You always hear the saying, “Saving the best for last”, but in this case, it was “Saving the toughest for last.” The Chiefs were taking on a Prince Albert team that was rated #1 in the latest CHL poll and had ripped out to an 11-1 start. No Raider team had ever started as well as this one, and they were determined to show the Chiefs why.
While Spokane was going into their 4th game in 5 nights and 6th in nine, the Raiders had been off since a home game Tuesday and were chomping at the bit to get back on the ice. It would show in the very first period as Spokane looked a step slow off the opening face-off. The Chiefs took a penalty just over 5 minutes into the game, and 46 seconds later, the Raiders Noah Gregor scored into an open net on the power play to make it 1-0. While the Chiefs would kill off 2 more Prince Albert power plays in the period, the ice definitely tilted in the Raiders direction as they out shot Spokane 19-8 in the first. Prince Albert scored three more goals in the period as they took the game to a tired Chiefs squad to take a 4-0 lead after one.
A turnover by Spokane in their own zone led to a Sean Montgomery easy goal 4:15 into the second to make it 5-0 Prince Albert. At this point, the game felt over and I was wondering when Prince Albert would hit double figures. The Chiefs fought back though, as the Chiefs scored on their first power play chance of the second as a Nolan Reid blast from the right wall went in for his first of the season to cut the lead to 5-1. The Chiefs then made it a tad interesting just over 15 minutes into the second as rookie Erik Atchison scored on a rebound net front for his first career goal to make it a 5-2 game heading into the second.
The Chiefs had a power play to start the third and a goal at this point would have made things a bit tight for the Raiders. Unfortunately, Spokane came up empty on the power play and when the Raiders scored on a shot from the left wing almost 4 minutes into the third, the competitive phase of this contest came to an end.
Prince Albert would score 2 more goals in the period late to wrap up an 8-2 rout as the road trip ended with a thud for the Chiefs. The last game of the trip is always the toughest, and it showed on this night as the club made way too many mental mistakes with the puck to get a positive result. Prince Albert showed why they’re the top club in the league, and hopefully Spokane will learn from this as they head home to open a 5 game homestand.
Things are tight in the U.S. Division, as the Chiefs are tied with Portland for first, just 1 point ahead of Seattle, and 3 up on Everett and Tri City. Everett and Tri could catch Spokane by the time the Chiefs hit the ice, and Seattle could pass them as well. Spokane will host Portland, Tri City and Seattle in their next 3 contests in which will be keyyy games in the division. Let’s hope the boys get some good rest and get back to playing the type of hockey they played early in this road trip, as they will need that when they get back home.

October 19, 2018 at Saskatoon

The Chiefs have now been on the road for the last 9 days and it’s starting to feel like it. After picking up a shutout win in Regina Wednesday, the club got their final day off of the trip on Thursday in Saskatoon. It was a beautiful sunny day as the temperatures reached the 60’s. I know how good it felt to have a day off, so I’m sure the team enjoyed it as well with a light skate. The rest was going to help the Chiefs gear up for the toughest two games of the Eastern swing as they faced second place Saskatoon and first place Prince Albert in back to back nights.
First up were the Blades, who had lost 2 in a row, including a home overtime loss to Calgary on Wednesday. This came after Saskatoon had won 7 of their first 9 to keep them within striking distance of first place Prince Albert in the East. The Chiefs had gone 3-1 in their first 4 games of the road trip and had moved into first place in the U.S. Division. Spokane expected Saskatoon to come out ready to jump on a Chiefs club on their 3rd game in 4 nights, and that’s exactly what happened. The Blades generated three straight power plays in the first period and would get a 5 on 3 advantage after back to back minors on the Chiefs late in the stanza. Saskatoon’s Eric Florchuk would slam home a one timer from the right circle with the 2 man advantage at 14:34 to give the Blades a 1-0 lead.
Spokane wouldn’t generate their first power play until the 18:43 mark of the first, but the Chiefs capitalized in just 8 seconds on the chance. Luke Toporowski scored on a rebound from the right circle after a Ty Smith shot from the left point to tie the game at one. Smith made a terrific play to keep the puck in the zone after a Nolan Reid pass hugged the blue line. After being out shot 15-8 in the period and spending most of the period in their own zone, the Chiefs had to feel great being tied 1-1 after the first.
In the second, Spokane turned around the game offensively as they generated three straight power plays early in the period. The Chiefs would get a 2 man advantage of their own just over 7 minutes in, and would take advantage just 8 seconds in as Smith scored his second of the year on a blast from the point at 7:19 to give Spokane a 2-1 lead. The margin would hold up until the final second of the period. The Chiefs stormed the Saskatoon net in the final seconds of the second, but Blades goalie Nolan Meier made a couple of key saves to keep Spokane off the board. Saskatoon went on a rush in the final seconds and a tip net front from Kirby Dach went under the bar with just .6 seconds left to tie the game at two. It was a tough sequence for the Chiefs as they had a chance to take a two goal lead into the third, but instead found themselves tied with 20 minutes left.
In the third, neither team was able to score as the Chiefs out shot Saskatoon 14-6 in the period. Spokane had to kill off two Blades power plays in the stanza and would head into overtime for the third time this season. In the previous two OT’s, Spokane extended the game to a shootout, only to lose on both occasions to Vancouver and Medicine Hat. On this night, the Chiefs nearly won in the opening seconds of the overtime as Toporowski’s rebound of his own shot hit the far post and kicked out. Saskatoon took the puck the other way and Dach would score his second of the night off a rebound net front 37 seconds into OT to give the Blades a 3-2 win.
Spokane out shot Saskatoon 43-33 in the game, going 2-5 on the power play and 5-6 on the penalty kill. Brkin was good in net once again as he made several net front saves and turned away a couple of breakaways. The Chiefs certainly had opportunities to win the game, but then again, so did the Blades. The positive is Spokane came away with a point to go 3-1-1 on the East trip, and the Chiefs held on to their first place spot in the U.S. Division after Seattle lost at Tri City. Now the team gets a chance to get one more night of rest before packing out of the hotel for one final game at Prince Albert tomorrow night. Let’s just see how much is left in the tank for Spokane as they get ready to face the #1 team in the CHL Saturday.

October 17, 2018 at Regina

A good come from behind win on the road can usually be the jump start to better things ahead for a team, regardless of what sport you play. When you’re a hockey team beginning a 4 games in 5 nights stretch, a win like that can really propel your club forward. The Chiefs were hoping that is what would exactly happen for them after their come from behind 6-4 win at Brandon the night before as Spokane headed to Regina for game 4 of their 6 game road swing through the East Division on Wednesday.
After the boys got back to the hotel in Regina from Brandon about 1:30am, the team slept in and got some rest for the night’s tilt with the Pats. It was beautifullll in Regina, as the temperatures reached into the 60’s. I even opened the door on my hotel balcony during the afternoon, something that seemed impossible just a couple days ago when the temps got into the 30’s. The Chiefs looked ready to go as the puck dropped too, as the club came out and dominated the game offensively in the first half of the first period. Spokane broke through as Ethan McIndoe converted a Luke Toporowski pass into an open net just over 6 minutes into the game to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead after one. The club got a bit on their heels defensively towards the end of the period after a 4 minute double minor high sticking penalty, but goalie Bailey Brkin and the defense shut down the Pats power play to keep the one goal lead.
Spokane failed to score on a pair of power plays early in the second period but would convert on their 3rd of the stanza when Adam Beckman sniped a shot top glove on Pats goalie Max Paddock late in the second to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead after two. If there were any worries about holding the two goal lead in the third, those quickly disappeared as Jack Finley scored his third goal in the last two nights on a rebound just 2 minutes into the period to make it 3-0. Defenseman Mike Ladyman picked up his first point as a Chief with an assist in just his second game with Spokane.
The Chiefs would cap the scoring just a minute and a half later as Beckman notched his second of the night to wrap up a 4-0 win. Brkin then put a bow on the evening with his second shut out as a Chief with 35 saves as the team put up 43 shots for the second straight night. The team had now won 3 of 4 on the road trip as they headed North to Saskatoon to take on the Blades on Friday. First though, is a well deserved day off for the boys. The bus ride to Saskatoon was festive to say the least, and it’s good to see the team enjoying themselves. They’ve earned it thus far, and let’s hope it continues for two more games this weekend.

October 16th, 2018 @ Brandon

The Chiefs got a couple days to get away from the ice and decompress as it were, after losing last Saturday at Moose Jaw. There was no question the team had let a couple of points slip away in that loss and it was important to get back to executing the little things to get back in the win column as the Chiefs headed East to Manitoba to face the Brandon Wheat Kings. The club had got bad news as defenseman Matt Leduc was lost with a leg injury, so Spokane called up D-man Michael Ladyman from Mantitoba to take over on the blue line.
With the next game the following night in Regina, the team stayed in Regina rather than head to Brandon the day before the game. The Chiefs stopped in Moosomin right off the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border for lunch and then headed into the bi-annual stop in Brandon. Spokane went back to Bailey Brkin in net after Dawson Weatherill took the loss in Moose Jaw. Brkin won the opener of the trip in Swift Current Friday and had only lost once in 4 starts, and that was in a shootout.
Spokane didn’t exactly start the game in ideal fashion as a bounce off the end wall saw the puck head over the Chiefs net and land net front. The Wheat Kings Luka Burzan batted the puck past Brkin just 3:41 into the game to make it 1-0 Brandon. The Wheaties then went up 2-0 when Ridly Greig took a stretch pass and split between 2 Chiefs defensemen to snap home a goal midway through the period to give Brandon a 2-0 lead. Spokane answered right back though, as Riley Woods took an Adam Beckman feed and scored between the circles just 13 seconds later to cut the margin in half at 2-1. The Chiefs then pulled even as Jack Finley scored from between the circles on the power play with a shot that went under the bar at 12:23 to send the game to the second period tied at 2.
The Chiefs took their first lead of the game midway through the second period when Eli Zummack took a Riley Woods pass and weaved his way from right to left across the circles to score his 4th of the year to give Spokane a 3-2 lead. The lead was short lived however, as Brandon scored just 20 seconds later to tie it up at 3 heading into the third period. The shots were even at 30 each through 2 in what was proving to be a very energetic and entertaining game.
In the third, another goofy bounce off the end wall benefited the Wheat Kings as a shot came out net front and hit Jake McGrew’s leg and into the open net to make it 4-3 Brandon just over 4 minutes into the third. The lead held until midway through the period when Ty Smith skated his way around the Brandon defense into the left circle and hit an open Zummack net front at 11:34 to tie the game at 4. Spokane slowly took control of the game offensively and broke through in the final 3 minutes. Ethan McIndoe got the puck behind the net, came out front and got off a back hand shot on goal. The rebound came to an open Finley and he scored his second of the night with 2:37 left to give the Chiefs a 5-4 lead.
Spokane would wrap up the comeback win when Smith lifted the puck out of the defensive zone in the final minute while Brandon had their net empty and an extra skater on. McIndoe chased down the loose puck and put away the game with an empty netter to seal the 6-4 victory and move the Chiefs to 2-1 on the East Division swing. The Chiefs out shot Brandon 43-40 on the night as they picked up their second straight win over Brandon in as many years. Zummack and Finley each ended up with 2 goals, while Riley Woods had a goal and an assist, and Smith, Nolan Reid and Luke Toporowski had 2 assists apiece. Brkin made some big saves in the third on his way to a 36 save effort and his 4th win of the year.
It was a great come from behind victory for the club and it should prove to be big going forward on this trip. There isn’t a lot of time to enjoy it though, as the bus is headed West back towards Regina for a meeting with the Pats tomorrow night. Here’s hoping the team plays as well tomorrow as they did tonight, because if they do, things should go Spokane’s way.

October 13, 2018 at Moose Jaw

With a win in Swift Current under their belts, the Chiefs made the hour and a half drive to Moose Jaw on Saturday for game two of their East Division swing. While Spokane has see temperatures around 50, the temps in Swift and Moose Jaw have been in the 20’s. Coming home from the game Friday, there was snow mixed in with the rain that fell overnight. On Saturday, the precipitation dried up, but the winds picked up something fierce, as the wind chill took the temps down towards 10 degrees. It’s been brutal. The team braved the frigid temps and visited the Swift Current Broncos memorial outside of Swift on their way to Moose Jaw on Saturday. The memorial marks the area where 4 Broncos players lost their lives in a bus accident in December of 1986. It’s a pretty sobering reminder of how important the bus drivers are in junior hockey all across Canada and the U.S.
Fortunately, the Chiefs have one of the best in Kevin Whalen and I for one am pretty damn thankful the team has him behind the wheel. KJ as he’s called, has been the team’s driver for the last decade, and it’s nice to have someone who knows the lay of the land and can get the boys to their games quickly and safely. It was pretty breezy on the drive to Moose Jaw Saturday and it’s safe to say the load out of the gear into the arena was pretty quick as it was brutallyyyy cold out. I’m just glad there wasn’t 2 feet of snow to slog through. I’ve done that enough on these trips.
As for the game itself, the team started Dawson Weatherill in net after Bailey Brkin picked up the win the night before. Just like the game in Swift, the Chiefs would take an early 1-0 lead on a power play goal from Ty Smith from the point with just over a minute and a half left in the first period. Spokane started a bit slow offensively in the game, but after being out shot 4-1, put up the last 9 shots of the period. The lead held until midway through the second, as Moose Jaw tied the game on a shot from just above the goal line that snuck through Weatherill along the post. It was certainly a goal the Chiefs netminder would like to have back. Spokane came right back and re-took the lead though as Carter Chorney tipped a Smith shot from the point for his second goal in as many nights to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead at 16:07. Moose Jaw would tie the game again on a goal on a rebound off a bad bounce for Spokane with just 12 seconds left in the period to send the game to the third tied at two.
The Warriors would take their first lead early in the third as they scored with just 20 seconds left on their only power play of the period. Daemon Hunt’s shot from point eluded Weatherill at 4:17 of the third to make it 3-2 Moose Jaw. Spokane would then get a 5 minute major power play midway through the period as the Chiefs Ethan McIndoe was checked from behind. The Chiefs converted as Riley Woods scored his team leading 7th of the season on an Adam Beckman pass between the circles to tie the game at 3. It appeared Beckman gave the Chiefs the lead towards the end of the 5 minute power play as he batted a puck out of mid-air with his stick into the net. It was ruled a no goal by the referee as he ruled the puck had been hit above the cross bar. A couple of the replays were inconclusive, but one from up ice showed while Beckman started his stick above…he hit the puck below the bar. The goal should have counted, but was not and it ended up costing the Chiefs.
Moose Jaw would score off an offensive zone face-off midway through the third on a Hunt shot from the left point that slid through Weatherill’s pads to give the Warriors a 4-3 lead. Despite out shooting Moose Jaw 30-20 in the game, and going a perfect 2-2 on the power play, the Chiefs would end up losing 4-3 in a game that Spokane should have won. The loss dropped the Chiefs from possibly moving into first place in the U.S. Division down to a tie for third. It was 2 points the team left on the ice and hopefully won’t regret doing so later in the season.
Now the club gets a couple of days off in Regina before they out Tuesday to Brandon to face the Wheat Kings. One thing’s for sure..the trip isn’t going to get any easier. The Chiefs will face 4 games in 5 nights starting Tuesday, and three of the teams they take on, Brandon, Saskatoon and Prince Albert are ranked or received votes in the latest CHL poll. We’ll see how the boys respond and hope the weather warms up a bit too!

October 12, 2018 at Swift Current

It had been almost 2 weeks since the Chiefs boarded the bus and headed out on the road. After going 1-1-0-1 in their first 3 road contests, the team headed out on their longest road trip of the season as they began their bi-annual trip through the East Division of the Western Hockey League. The journey is long and a test of endurance as Spokane will play 6 games in 9 nights. Throw in 2 full days of travel around the games and the team will travel over 2,300 miles in a week and a half on the bus. Then there’s the challenges on the ice, as the team will face 3 of the top clubs in the league in those 6 contests. It will be a grind as well as a chance for the club to see how they measure up.
The trip would begin on the Wednesday night before the first game Friday in Swift Current. The all night ride was long and exhausting as sleep came at a premium. The Chiefs got into Medicine Hat between 7:30 and 8 Thursday morning in time for breakfast at IHOP. Breakfast was brief, as the team had a practice time of 11am in Swift Current. The Chiefs got to Swift about 10:15, and had about an hour on the ice to get rid of the bus legs to prepare for the next night’s game with Swift Current. The club then was able to have lunch at Wong’s, a very good Chinese restaurant that had a faboulous buffet spread. Let’s say the team walked away happy after that meal. I certainly did.
The Chiefs had the rest of the day off and got a chance to rest up for the next day’s contest with the Broncos. Swift is the defending league champions, but lost quite a bit of firepower from last year’s squad. The Broncos came in as the only team without a point, having started 0-6. It was also Swift’s last home game before heading out on a 6 game road trip, so the Chiefs knew they were facing a desperated club Friday. Spokane went with Bailey Brkin in net for the 3rd straight start as he had played well in the weekend split at home with Medicine Hat and Edmonton.
Spokane would come out in the first period and dominate offensively. The Chiefs spent most of the period in the Broncos end of the ice, putting up a season high 24 shots in the first 20 minutes. Spokane wasn’t able to break through though until just 1:50 remained as Eli Zummack scored on a tip of a Bobby Russell shot to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead after one. Spokane ran into trouble early in the second when Tyson Feist took a 4 minute double minor penalty for high sticking just over 2.5 minutes into the period. The Chiefs penalty kill came through though as they killed off the penalty and then just over 2 minutes later expanded the lead. Carter Chorney tipped a Matt Leduc shot in 8:01 into the second to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead and give Spokane the momentum going through the rest of the period.
The team out shot Swift Current 34-20 through two periods and killed off 3 Broncos power plays in the second. In the third, Riley Woods got the puck up the left wing midway through the period and hit an open Jake McGrew net front off the rush to expand the Chiefs lead to 3-0. Goalie Bailey Brkin’s shutout was spoiled on a Broncos goal at 15:44, but Spokane finished off the win when Woods scored on an empty netter in the final 20 seconds to cap off a nice 4-1 win to start the road trip. The Chiefs put up a season high 48 shots and went a perfect 4-4 on the penalty kill to beat Swift for the third straight season.
It was a nice start to the road trip as the team will now get ready to head to Moose Jaw for Saturday’s second contest of the road swing. The club will spend the night in Swift Current before heading out on game day for the 1.5 hour road trip to Moose Jaw. The Warriors dropped an overtime game in Brandon tonight, so they’ll be hungry to pick up a win on their home ice. The Chiefs did lose defenseman Matt Leduc to a leg injury in Swift and he looks doubtful for Moose Jaw, so Luke Gallagher will be asked to step up in his place. It will be another challenge for Spokane, but that seems par for the course on the East trip. Let’s hope the boys are up for it tomorrow night.

September 30, 2018 at Vancouver

Three games in three nights…in three different cities. It’s a daunting task no matter how you stack it up. The Chiefs had passed the first two tests well, as they scored back to back wins over Kootenay in a home and home series. The most series test would come in the final game Sunday as Spokane headed to Vancouver to face the Giants for the first time this season.
After Saturday’s home opening win over Kootenay, the team got on the bus for the 7 plus hour drive to Langley, B.C., where the Giants play their home games. The team unloaded at the rink about 5:30am and were in the hotel at 6am. The pre-game meal of chicken, rice, vegetables, and pasta was at 11:30am as the team would head to rink beginning at 1:30. It rained the entire time the Chiefs were in Canada and while it felt good to see some rain for the first time in weeks, it got a little dreary too as the day went along. Not to mentioned I got soaked just walking my bag to the bus.
The team was without forward Jake McGrew, who stayed behind after taking a shot to the mouth the night before. Having to undergo dental surgery was far more difficult than an overnight bus ride and playing a game at 4pm the next day, believe me. Been there. Playing their third game in a row, it was important to get off to a good start and not fall behind big on tired legs. The Chiefs managed to do just that as Bobby Russell took a Mike King pass and scored on a back hand 3:42 into the game to give Spokane a 1-0 lead. It was Russell’s second straight game with a goal, while King and forward Erik Atchison picked up their first points at Chiefs with assists.
Adam Beckman started a big night offensively for him as he took a Riley Woods feed and scored from between the circles at 12:01 of the period to make it 2-0 Spokane. Vancouver answered just over 2 minutes later right after the Chiefs had killed off a power play. James Malm, the Giants leading goal scorer got in between the circles and scored 3 seconds after Vancouver’s power play expired to cut the Spokane lead to 2-1 after one. The Chiefs got the lead back to two midway through the second period on the power play. Beckman notched his second of the night for his first multi-goal game of his career to build the lead back to 3-1 for Spokane. The Giants then scored 2 goals just over 3 minutes apart late in the second to pull back even at 3 apiece. The first came off a rush on the left wing, while the second was a goal from the low right circle that goalie Dawson Weatherill would like to have back. Weatherill left his leg pads wide open along the near post and the Giants Kaleb Bulych took advantage to even the game up. The Chiefs answered with under a minute left in the second as Jack Finley scored his first WHL goal on a knuckleball that went off a Vancouver stick and under the cross bar with just 38 seconds left in the period to give Spokane a 4-3 lead heading into the third.
The Chiefs held the lead through the third as they played a close to the vest defensive style in the final period. Vancouver pulled their goalie with just over a minute and a half left to bring on the extra skater and the move paid off. The Chiefs had trouble winning puck battles and clearing the zone, and Vancouver broke through when Brayden Watts got the puck in the left circle and beat Weatherill through a screen with 44 seconds left to tie the game at 4. The two teams managed just one shot in a very conservatively played overtime, forcing a shootout for the first time for the two clubs this season.
Neither team scored in the first round, but Vancouver would score in round two to take a 1-0 lead. The Giants held that lead as Spokane’s third shooter Eli Zummack had to score to keep the Chiefs hopes alive. Zummack came through, scoring in round three to force sudden death rounds. Watts scored for Vancouver in round 4 to make it 2-1 Giants. The Chiefs Carter Chorney was denied in his attempt and Vancouver came away with a 5-4 shootout victory, their second straight over Spokane over the last 2 seasons.
While the Chiefs did get 5 out of 6 points over the grueling weekend, there was definitely a sense of leaving a point behind after coming within 44 seconds of three straight wins. The team will get a good rest though, as they are off until the following weekend when they host Medicine Hat and Edmonton at the Spokane Arena. Hopefully McGrew will be back in the lineup, and the Chiefs will be that much closer to seeing a full lineup during the month of October. The win did push the Chiefs into first in the U.S. Division as well, so the team is in good shape going forward. The week of rest will do the Chiefs a lot of good, and I for one, will be glad to join them on the rest break.

September 29, 2018 at Kootenay

After taking a pasting in a 6-1 road loss in the season opener the Saturday before, the Chiefs got a much needed week off to re-evaluate and work out their game before facing a challenging 3 games in 3 nights stretch the following weekend. The team got good news on several fronts during the week, starting with the returns of forwards Jake McGrew from San Jose’s NHL camp and Luke Toporowski from Team USA’s Top Prospects game. Then as the team was getting ready to depart to Cranbrook on Friday to open the weekend with the Kootenay Ice, the club found out defenseman Ty Smith was heading back to Spokane from New Jersey’s NHL camp.
While Smith wouldn’t be available until Saturday’s home opener with Kootenay, the team hit the road North to Cranbrook with a renewed sense as they faced an Ice team that had won its’ opener last weekend against Calgary. The drive to Cranbrook is the second closest for the Chiefs, going only 3.5 hours from Spokane. It’s the perfect time of year to move through the North Idaho panhandle, and after a brief lunch in Bonner’s Ferry, the team got to the rink ready to go. The club had good success on Kootenay’s home ice last season, winning all 3 games, although two were just by one goal..with one of those going to overtime.
The Chiefs got off to a good start in the first as Riley Woods scored the first goal of the game for the second straight contest. Luke Gallagher’s shot from the blue line was saved, but McGrew got the puck back on net for Woods to finish a rebound past goalie Duncan McGovern to give Spokane a 1-0 lead after one. Eli Zummack made it 2-0 early in the second period as he finished off a 2 on 1 rush with Toporowski with a nifty back hand net front. McGrew then scored on a 5 on 3 power play with a shot from the top of the left circle that beat McGovern under the blocker to make it 3-0 at 14:05 of the period. Kootenay’s Brett Davis scored a power play goal just over two minutes later to cut the lead to 3-1, but Spokane answered with a huge goal in the final 30 seconds of the period when Toporowski found an open Adam Beckman between the circles for his first WHL goal to make it 4-1 after two. Rookie defenseman Egor Arbuzov also notched his first career point with an assist.
Forward Sean Gulka then scored his first WHL point with an assist on Matt Leduc’s second career goal early in the third that gave Spokane what seemed to be a commanding 5-1 lead. Kootenay had other ideas however, as the Ice scored their second power play goal of the night on a power play midway through the third to make it 5-2. Then just 29 seconds later, the Ice scored again, and it was suddenly a game at 5-3. When Davis scored his second power play tally of the night at 17:13 to make it 5-4, the sure win suddenly looked very much in doubt.
Kootenay would pull McGovern from net in the final 2 minutes, but the Chiefs didn’t flinch. Carter Chorney got the puck in the defensive zone and found Toporowski, who lifted the puck 3/4 of the length of the ice to score in the empty net to make it 6-4. Just 30 seconds later, Ethan McIndoe won a puck battle and hit Jake McGrew at center ice. McGrew scored his second of the game into the open net to seal a 7-4 win and cap a 3 point night for McGrew in his return to Spokane. Toporowski and Zummack each had a goal and an assist, while Beckman, Arbuzov, Gulka, and Bobby Russell all notched their first points as Chiefs.
It was quite a turnaround performance, particularly offensively, from the Chiefs managed in their first game against Tri City. Now the question will be, will the team maintain that in their home opener with the Ice Saturday and again Sunday in Vancouver? Consistency is always the goal, and this 3 games in 3 nights stretch is a good time to see if the club is making steps in that direction. For now though, it’s time to enjoy a little Boston Pizza lasagna on the bus and try to get a little shut eye before tomorrow’s home opener.

September 22, 2018 at Tri City

I’m the first to admit it. This season has snuck up on me. After a summer of baseball with the Spokane Indians, and their run to the Northwest League Championship series, I’m still in kind of a baseball mood. After all, the Indians season just ended last Tuesday night, just 11 days ago. The fact is though, baseball is over..just ask the Mariners…and hockey is upon us.
While I was off running all over the Northwest with the Indians in early September, the Chiefs were going through their 3 week pre-season, going an impressive 4-1-1, including two decisive wins over Tri City to end the exhibition season. After outscoring the Americans 12-4 in the two victories in Kennewick, it may have been easy to look at the season opener at Tri as a contest that was very winnable for Spokane. One thing I’ve learned in sports though…never judge a team by pre-season.
The Chiefs entered their season opener minus Ty Smith, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Jake McGrew. Luke Toporowski, and Filip Kral. That’s quite a lot to be missing, but the team seemed to have plenty of young depth ready to step up to the challenge of facing an Americans team missing just one top liner in Michael Rasmussen. The big question for me was whether the Chiefs young guns who had played so well in the exhibition games would step up to match the experienced front liners for Tri City.
Saturday’s trip to Tri did not start great. Before the team bus got through the Cheney exits on I-90, the coach died by the Salnave Road exit. Fortunately, the bus barn wasn’t far away and another bus was summoned so the team could unload the gear and pack up for the rest of the journey on a new bus. The club arrived about a half hour later than normal…and after the bus engine conked out coming into the Toyota Center parking lot to unload. Fortunately, we were able to coast in and get the bus parked to unload for the night’s game. It also turned out to be a harbinger of things to come for Spokane later in the evening.
The Chiefs started well though. Just 1:30 into the game, Tri City had taken 2 penalties, giving Spokane a 5 on 3 advantage on the power play for over a minute. The club took advantage too, as Riley Woods took a Eli Zummack pass and one timed a shot from the right circle just 2:20 into the game to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. Spokane failed to score in the remaining 1:11 of the power play, but still led it by one early. Tri would come back and tie it just 3 minutes later as a shot from the left wing beat a screened Dawson Weatherill to even the game at one. The Chiefs then committed a costly turnover at their blue line trying to break out of their zone, and the Ams scored off a 2 on 1 rush as Kyle Olson scored net front late in the period to give the Americans a 2-1 lead after one.
Spokane needed to come out and play well in the second to get the game back in their corner, but the Chiefs played their flattest period of the night and it ended up costing them the game. Tri’s Nolan Yaremko scored on a savable shot from the right wing to beat Weatherill under the blocker far side to give the Ams a 3-1 lead. Yaremko then tipped in a shot net front late in the period to make it 4-1 Tri City after two. Meantime, the Chiefs offense was quiet like a church mouse in the period, managing next to nothing in quality chances.
The Chiefs had a couple of great opportunities to get back in the game in the third. Eli Zummack got a glorious chance net front in the first minute and a half of the third, but his open net shot was poked away by Americans goalie Beck Warm to deny the Chiefs cutting the lead in half. Spokane then got a power play about 4 minutes later, but failed to do much with it as they remained 3 back. To make things worse, Tri City scored after the failed power play chance to go up 4 at 5-1 to pretty much end the competitive phase of this contest. The Americans would tack on another goal in the final minutes to complete the 6-1 rout as the Chiefs suffered their second lopsided season opening loss in Tri in the last 3 seasons.
About the only positive I could pick out of the defeat was the Chiefs penalty kill unit going a perfect 4 for 4, while the power play was 1-4. Other than that, there will be a lot to learn from for this team going forward. Spokane will get plenty of practice time too, as the team is off until next weekend’s home and home set with the Kootenay Ice. Let’s hope the Chiefs learned their lessons and will be a bit more ready in Cranbrook next Friday.