Not sure how you would describe the Spokane Chiefs weekend. It was a critical Western Hockey League three-games-in-three-nights roadtrip against U.S. Division teams ahead of them in the standings. Three points in six games is OK, but the strange part is how they came up with the points.
Spokane dominated offensively on Friday in Seattle, the team the Chiefs are closest to, but lose 2-1 in a shootout. Then a week after blanking Tri-City 5-0 the Americans whip them 8-3. Finally, a 3-1 win at WHL-leading Portland. As Gregg Drinnan pointed out, the Winterhawks were a tad short-handed after a dustup with Kamloops Saturday night (He also reported former Chief Lynn Loyns signed in Italy).
The West, as Drinnan said, is quite a chase. (His explanation is below.) The Chiefs are home against Kamloops on Wednesday night and go to Kamloops Friday before returning home to play Kelowna on Saturday.
From Gregg Drinnan:
Don’t look now but the 10-team Western Conference is something of a mess.
But after that there are only six points separating nine teams.
A week ago, the Kamloops Blazers were coming off two home-ice victories — they beat the Kelowna Rockets 4-0 and the Everett Silvertips 3-1 — and were tied for fifth, just one point out of third place.
This morning, the Blazers wake up having lost two straight road games and find themselves in last place.
Kamloops (11-11-1) is 10th, one point behind the Spokane Chiefs, Kelowna and the Prince George Cougars, who are tied for seventh. (Yes, all 10 teams are at .500 or better, but we won’t get into that, at least not now.)
The Chilliwack Bruins are sixth, with 25 points, just one point behind the Seattle Thunderbirds, Tri-City Americans and Everett, all of whom are tied for third, just three points behind Vancouver.
This has the feel of a horse race that will be like this right into March.
How big a role will injuries play?
And how big a price might be paid by those teams that lose players to national junior teams and to the U-17 World Hockey Challenge during the month of December and into January?
Yes, there are interesting times ahead.
The Eastern Conference, meanwhile, appears to be splitting into three packs.
The Kootenay Ice, Saskatoon Blades and Red Deer Rebels have opened up a bit of room, over a pack that features the Medicine Hat Tigers, Moose Jaw Warriors, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Swift Current Broncos and Brandon Wheat Kings. At the same time, the Regina Pats, Prince Albert Raiders and Edmonton Oil Kings are scrambling to get back into playoff position, while the 12th-place Calgary Hitmen have lost 13 of 14 and are 12 points out of a playoff spot.