The Chiefs now face a grueling 4-game-in-5-night road trip across the division next week as they travel to Seattle, Tri City and Portland.
SPOKANE, Wash. — The new year of 2022 started promising enough for the Chiefs with a home win over rivals Tri City on New Year’s Day to give Spokane a swipe at home and home with the rival Americans, pushing the team past the Ams in the table by one point. Who would have thought that the victory on day one of 2022 would be the last game for the Chiefs for almost two weeks as the combination of severe winter weather and the Omicron variant of Covid not only affected the Chiefs but 14 other clubs in the League threw off ice as players entered Covid logs Spokane lost 4 games on his schedule in almost 2 weeks as a home game against Everett and 3 away games in Seattle and Victoria are now delayed in the next 3 months. Spokane will have a full half of the schedule as they have 38 of their 68 game schedules to play through April 3. With the number of teams closed due to Covid, the league has raised the idea of extending the regular season beyond the 3rd if necessary. We will see. As we’ve seen over the past two years during this pandemic, the only thing I expect is the unexpected.
If there was one good thing from the shutdown, it was the break, which gave the team a chance to heal some of their injured players without dropping points in the standings. Spokane would also make some moves in his roster in the downtime as forward Copeland Fricker and defender Ben Bonni were assigned to teams in Canada while forward James Form was let go. Meanwhile, the Chiefs welcomed defenseman Raegan Wiles after missing the first 4 games after the holiday break and forwards Grady Lane and Michael Cicek after missing the last 2 months. The team needed to bring back as many as possible as Spokane was back in action against the Western Conference’s top two teams as they welcomed Everett and Kamloops to Spokane Arena on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Chiefs have yet to beat division-leading Silvertips in their previous 7 games, going 0-5-2 this season. Spokane had been beaten in the two December matchups, losing 9-2, 7-2 in the two games in Everett. The club wanted to change that on Friday evening. Everett dominated the first half of the first third, but goaltender Mason Beaupit kept the spikes off the board as the Chiefs snuffed out 3 Everett power play chances. Spokane would take the lead late in the first round when leading scorer Bear Hughes scored his 11th of the year at 15:24 to make it 1-0 for the Chiefs. Just when it looked like the Chiefs would finish a 4th Everett power play at halftime and take a 1-goal lead, a costly turnover in Spokane’s end of the ice resulted in a Ronan Seeley goal at 19:06 of the frame to send the game to the second draw at one.
The Silvertips capitalized on the momentum of that late goal and then scored 3 goals in the first 12:03 of the second to take a comfortable 4-1 lead. Turnovers were costly for Spokane as it seemed every mistake the Chiefs made with the puck in their own zone ended up in the back of the net. The Chiefs cut the lead to 4-2 with just under 7 minutes to go when Wiles scored his second goal of the season at 13-13 to make it a 4-2 game. However, Spokane would take back-to-back penalties in the last minute of the stanza, giving the Silvertips a 5-on-3 power play to start the third period.
Like all good teams, Everett made the Chiefs pay for their lack of discipline early in the final period. The Silvertips scored just 27 seconds in the last 20 minutes to take a 5-2 lead. The picks would then knock out the Chiefs with another goal at 5:38 to finish Spokane 6-2 for Everett’s 8th straight win of the season series. Spokane was knocked out in the game 31-20 and went out 0-4 on the power play. The big problem for the Chiefs came when they gave Everett 8 power play chances in the game. While Spokane killed 7 of them, the Chiefs spent far too much time on penalties against the 5th rated power play in the league. It was far from an ideal start for Spokane and the club also lost defender Graham Sward mid-game, leaving him short-handed on the blue line for much of Friday’s competition.
Things didn’t get any easier on Saturday as the team welcomed BC Division leaders Kamloops Blazers. It was the Blazers’ only visit to Spokane Arena this season and they didn’t arrive in high spirits as they blew a 4-0 lead in the first period the night before in Tri Cities and watched the Americans score 5 straight goals scored to come from behind 5-4 win. The Ams’ victory also gave them a one-point lead over the Chiefs in 4th place in the US division. The Chiefs needed a good start on Saturday and they would face the Blazers in the first half as each team managed just 6 shots on goal in twenty minutes without a goal. The second period would be the defining moment of the contest as the Blazers came out and shot Spokane 14-7 in the frame. Kamloops would break the ice with a goal at the 8:03 mark and take a 1-0 lead. The Blazers would then score two more goals in the next 2:17 to take the lead 3-0. Kamloops would end a 4-goal streak on a power play record with less than 2 minutes remaining in the streak to take a 4-0 lead after two games.
Any hopes of a Chiefs comeback would be dashed in the third round as Kamloops would score a quick goal on a Chiefs power play midway through the half to end the game 5-0. The Blazers would finish scoring late with a 4-4 to earn a crucial 6-0 shutout win, giving Spokane their second shutout loss of the season. The other shutout came in October in Portland at the end of a 3-game-in-3-night trip with a 3-0 lead. The loss was also costly in the standings for Spokane, as Tri City won 2-1 in a shootout in Portland and improved 3 points over the Chiefs in the US Division standings. The good news for Spokane was that Victoria lost both games last weekend, leaving the Chiefs 5 points behind the West’s last playoff spot.
Spokane reaches a crossroads in its season. The Chiefs now face a grueling 4-game-in-5-night road trip across the division next week as they travel to Seattle, Tri City and Portland. Playing at Tri is a must in regulation for the Chiefs and in my opinion one of the three games in Seattle and Portland needs to be won to be realistic in the playoff talk. If the club goes on the journey without a win, the possibility of falling 8 to 10 points out of the playoffs is not far off. Spokane is getting healthier, but they’ll need contributions from all hands this next week to move the leaderboard up rather than down.
The Chiefs will begin the road trip in Seattle on Friday before heading to Tri City for a key matchup with the Americans on Saturday. Spokane will then complete a 3-game, 3-night stretch in Portland on Sunday before completing the road trip with another game in Seattle on Tuesday. I got the call for all 4 games on 103.5 FM the Game and 1510 AM KGA. Friday and Tuesday games in Seattle begin at 7:05 p.m. with pre-game shows at 6:30 p.m. Tri Cities Saturday game is at 6:05pm with pre-game at 5:30pm. Portland’s Sunday game is a 5:05 p.m. start and a 4:30 p.m. prelude. It’s a huge road trip for Spokane and could very well determine whether they fight for a playoff spot or start building for next year. We hope to see you on the radio!