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With the Western Hockey League season opening Thursday and the Spokane Chiefs playing their first gameon Saturday, it's time to pick up the pace.
Today I'll post capsules from the Eastern Division of the Eastern Conference, with the Central Division on Wednesday and the B.C. Division on Thursday, when we'll have our overview of the WHL. The caps for the U.S. Division are set for Friday.
A look at the Chiefs will be in Saturday's paper and then I'll head to Tri-City for the opener. It does't seem that long ago I was commuting to TC for the playoff games. The good news is that regular-season games only have 5 minutes of OT and a shootout so there should be no 2 a.m. arrivals.
At last report, only Brenden Kichton has returned of the four players the Chiefs sent to NHL camps, leaving the roster shy of Darren Kramer, Blake Gal and Dominik Uher.
One last thing, former Spokane captain Jared Cowen scored both goals, after getting into a scrap that cost him 17 minutes of ice time, for Ottawa last night in a 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs.
The Spokane Chiefs used their defensive strength to strengthen their goaltender competition today, trading Tyler Vanscourt , 19, to Prince Albert for Luke Lee-Knight, 18, and a fifth-round pick in next summer's bantam draft.
Lee-Knight joins second-year goalie Mac Engel and rookie Zach Rakochy, also both 18, while 19-year old Jacob Edwards was released.
General manager Tim Speltz said in a release that it strengthens the draft as well as the goaltending but in appearing in 3 games, Engel has a 1.89 GAA while Rakochy is 1.54. So how this plays out remains to be seen.
The Chiefs play Tri-City tonight at Eagles in the sixth of their seven preseason games. The Chiefs are 4-0-0-1, the Americans are 3-2-0-0, which includes a 3-2 shootout win over Spokane in TC last Saturday.
As usual, the Spokane Chiefs will play in two preseason tournaments before playing one game in Spokane prior to the Western Hockey League season.
The Chiefs will play in the Everett tournament Sept. 2-4 and then the Tri-City tournament the next week, which features all five U.S. Division teams.
Spokane, which reached the Western Conference finals last season under new coach Don Nachbaur, play a total of seven games, capped by a visit from the Tri-City Americans on Thursday, Sept.15. That game will be played at Eastern Washington University.
The first three games are in Everett. On Friday, Sept. 2, the Chiefs face Seattle, followed by a Saturday game with the host Silvertips and a Sunday game with Portland, which knocked Spokane out of the playoffs.
At Tri-City, the Chiefs play Seattle again on Friday the 9th, followed by a Saturday game with the Americans.
They close the preseason by going to Tri-City for a game on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Important dates for Spokane Chiefs fans this summer. First is a deadline for season tickets.
June 15, 2011: - RENEWAL DEADLINE FOR ALL ACCOUNTS
June 24-25, 2011: - NHL Entry Draft
June 29, 2011: - CHL Import Draft
July 4-8, 2011: - Chiefs 2011-2012 Schedule to be released
August 25-28, 2011: - Chiefs Fall Camp
August 28, 2011: - Red/White Game at the Spokane Arena
August 30, 2011: - Package Holder Night at Spokane Indians Baseball Game
Early September 2011: - Package Holder Pick-up Party
Early September 2011: - Individual game tickets go on sale
September 23-24, 2011: - Tentative WHL Opening Weekend
October 1, 2011: - Tentative Spokane Chiefs Home Opener vs. Tri-City
And an update on former Chief Kyle Beach … you won't be surprised the jury is split on his worth - and his maturity.
Without a Memorial Cup championship the hockey season finishes in disappointment but there was nothing disappointing about the Spokane Chiefs' season, above, in a Colin Mulvany photo, celebrating an overtime win against the Tri-City Americans.
Troy Rutkowski, Ty Rattie and Nino Niederreiter scored in the third period as the Portland Winterhawks ended the Spokane Chiefs season with a 6-3 win Molnday night at the Arena, taking the Western Conference best-of-7 finals in six games.
The Chiefs jumped to a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes of the game but they couldn't hold off the Winterhawks, who face Kootenay in the Western Hockey League championship beginning this weekend in Portland.
Portland's Ryan Johansen, who scored in five of the six games, was MVP.
Long box below.
I slacked off Sunday, calling it a day after returning from Portland (well, I did mow the grass and attend to a few other chores). John Blanchette advanced tonight's Western Hockey League playoff Game 6 between Spokane and Portland with this column on Chiefs' captain Jared Cowen.
If the Chiefs win tonight to force a Game 7 in Portland on Tuesday it will make the fifth time in the past 6 series between these two teams Spokane won a Game 6 to force a Game 7.
Missed on deadline and travel out of Game 4: That was Levko Koper's 60th playoff game (he had a hat trick in that 8-3), a record for the Chiefs, surpassing Derek Schutz (1995-2000). Through 6 games, Koper has 293 games for Spokane, Schutz was in 411 … Matt Marantz's goal 10 seconds into the game was a Spokane record for fastest goal at the start of a game.
For updates on tonight's game, twitter.com/SRtrim
Sven Bartschi scored one goal and assisted on two others as the Portland Winterhawks and Spokane Chiefs returned to form with their fourth one-goal game in the five games of their Western Hockey League playoff seriers.
The Winterhawks took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference finals with a 3-2 win. All three Portland wins have been by one goal.
Only Spokane's 8-3 rout on Friday in Game 4 wasn't close.
The Chiefs took a 1-0 lead 59 seconds in and that held up until Bartschi scored with 33 seconds left in the second. He assisted on two third-period goals but the Chiefs cut it back to one a minute after the Winterhawks final score. Tyler Johnson had Spokane's first goal, Mitch Holmberg had the second.
James Reid made 39 saves for the Chiefs, Mac Carruth had 40 for the Winterhawks. Ty Rattie scored the tie-breaking goal and Craig Cunningham had the game winner.
3 stars: 3, Mac Carruth. 2, Ty Rattie. 1, Sven Bartschi.
Long box below
The Western Hockey League Western Conference finals became a best of three, spread over four days, after the Spokane Chiefs hammered the Portland Winterhawks 8-3 Friday game to tie the best of 7 series 2-2.
Colin Mulvany also prouduced this slideshow, including the Chiefs celebrating their goal 10 seconds into the game.
Levko Koper scored a hat trick and Tyler Johnson and Collin Valcourt each had a goal and two assists.
Game 5 is tonight in Porltand with Game 6 in Spokane on Monday.
3 stars: 3, Darren Kramer. 2, Collin Valcourt. 1, Levko Koper.
Long box below.
Brendan Leipsic socred at7:44 of overtime to lift Portland to a 3-2 win over the Spokane Chiefs at the Arena Wednesday night.
For the third straight game to open the WHL's Western Conference finals the Spokane Chiefs and Portland Winterhawks put on a tense show, with plenty of big saves, like James Reid stopping Ty Rattie in the first period (above).
Game 4 is here Friday with Game 5 back in Portland on Saturday.
Ryan Johansen forced the overtime by scoring with 2:14 left in regulation, his third straight game with a goal and ninth of the playoffs. Levko Koper's goal at 8:40 of the third period had put the Chiefs on top.
The Chiefs made it difficult by going 0-9 on the power play, while Portland was just 0-2.
Spokane scored first with Jared Cowen squeezing a shot past Mac Carruth at 15:07 of the first period but that only lasted 66 seconds before a defensive miscue gave Taylor Peters a breakaway for a short-handed goal.
3 stars: 3, Taylor Peters. 2, Jared Cowen. 1, Brendan Leipsac
The Portland Winterhawks are confident and the Spokane Chiefs know they'll have to bear down for Game 3 of the best-of-7 series. The game is Wednesday night at the Arena. After splitting two games in Portland, the teams will play here again Friday and hustle off to Portland for Game 5 on Saturday. Should the series go the distance, the last four games will be played in five days, with travel after each game.
The Spokane Chiefs had a delayed trip home on Monday after dropping a 2-1 decision to the Portland Winterhawks (Oregonian story) Sunday night. The series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 Wednesday in the Arena. There is also a story from The Portland Tribune.
Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals is tonight, with Kootenay, at home, leading Medicine Hat 2-0.
As expected the Portland Winterhawks had a lot of jump in the second game of their best-of-7 Western Hockey League playoff series Sunday night after losing the opener of the Western Conference championship 2-1 to the Spokane Chiefs on Friday.
The Hawks took the lead for the first time in the series with a Ryan Johansen power play goal at 7:38 of the second period and that stood up for a 2-1 victory in a game where Spokane had precious few chances.
Game 3 is in Spokane on Wednesday with Game 4 at the Arena on Friday, before the teams return to the Rose Garden next Saturday for Game 5.
3 stars: 3, James Reid, 2, Craig Cunningham, 1 Mac Carruth
Long box below.
Before Easter brunch and a wet slog to the Rose Garden, which might need some beams re-enforced after Trail Blazer fans raised the roof during the NBA comeback yesterday, a short hockey offering.
The Spokane Chiefs expect the Winterhawks to come out flying tonight in Game 2 of the WHL's Western Conference championship after the visitors won the first game 2-1 on Friday. Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune has a lot from the Hawks, who lost the opener last series at home then won three straight, including two in Kelowna.
The Spokane Chiefs will open the Western Conference finals at Portland Friday night without leading scorer Tyler Johnson as he serves a one-game suspension, the Western Hockey League announced Wednesday afternoon.
Johnson was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct for a knee-on-knee hit with Brendan Shinniman of Tri-Cities on Tuesday night. The Americans, leading 1-0 at that point, scored on the power play and took a 3-0 lead into the third period.
The Chiefs rallied for four straight goals and eventually won the game 5-4 in overtime to win the best-of-7 series 4-2. Here is our story, the story from The Tri-City Herald and columnist John Blanchette's take.
"That’s as good of victory as I’ve been involved in in junior hockey," said Spokane coach Don Nachbaur, a former WHL player, who is coaching is in his 13th season coaching in the league. "Being three goals down and coming back against a good team like that is a testament to their character."
The Chiefs won the last two games of their first-round series with Chilliwack without Johnson, who had 115 points and led the league with 53 goals, when he was injured in Game 3.
Meanwhile, the WHL made it official, Chilliwack is relocating to Victoria.
After one of their most amazing comebacks in memory, Levko Koper (25 above, celebrating in the Colin Mulvany photo) gave the Spokane Chiefs a 5-4 series clinching win over the Tri-City Americans 6:39 into overtime Tuesday night, bringing a crowd of 6,083 to their feet in the Arena.
The Chiefs head to Portland for the Western Conference Finals beginning Friday.
Fighting to stay alive, the Americans showed much more life than the Chiefs, building a 3-0 lead after two periods but Spokane came back with three goals in the first 3:13 of the third period to tie the game.
3 stars: Patrick Holland, TC; 2, Kenton Miller. 1, Koper
Long box below
Blake Gal stepped out of the penalty box and into Spokane Chiefs' lore, scoring 4:57 into overtime to give the Spokane Chiefs a 3-2 win and 3-2 series lead over the Tri-City Americans Sunday night.
Game 6 is in Spokane Tuesday night with Game 7, if necessary, on Wednesday.
Seconds after a James Reid glove save saved the Chiefs, the Chiefs broke out and Dominik Uher found Gal down the left wall, where he snapped off a shot that gave them command of the series.
3 stars: 3, Patrick Holland, tC; 2, Jared Cowen, Spo, 1, James Reid, Spo.
Long box below.
Desperation seems to be the buzz word for the Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans as they head into Game 5 tonight tied 2-2 in their best-of-7 Western Hockey League playoff series. A come-from-behind win in double overtime gave the Americans renewed confidence. For long-time Chiefs fans, the name Terry Ryan may be haunting.
The Spokane Chiefs put the clamps on the Tri-City Americans, regaining the home-ice advantage in the best of-7 Western Hockey League series with a 4-1 win at the Toyota Center in Kennewick Tuesday game.
The Chiefs, leading the series 2-1, stay here for a game Thursday night with Game 5 back here on Sunday.
Dominik Uher gave the Chiefs a 1-0 lead about 90 seconds in, snapping a high, hard wrist shot past Drew Owsley. A couple of rebound goals a few minutes apart midway through the second period made it 3-0. Blake Gal got the first one on a power play, off a Corbin Baldwin shot from the point. Kento Miller got the second, banging in a rebound off a Levko Koper shot set up by Anthony Bardaro.
The Americans had a flurry after that but only Neal Prokop's slap shot from the left circle got past James Reid.
The Chiefs had too many great chances to count in out-shooting the Americans 41-21 before Darren Kramer iced it with less than 3 minutes remaining.
The three-stars. 3, Prokop; 2, Jared Cown. 1, Gal
Short box below. Here is the story.
With the Spokane Chiefs gone for a week - if not for the season - with soft-pedaled today's Western Hockey League playoff game at Tri-City. The Chiefs, tied with the Americans 1-1 in their best-of-7 second-round series, play in Tri Thursday and Sunday as well. They have to win one to regain home ice, but they need more since the Ams proved in Game One they can win in Spokane. Game 6, if necessary, is at the Arena next Tuesday.
As the host newspaper, the Tri-City Herald had a bigger advance … and note that TC defenseman Tyler Schmidt was suspended for tonight's game because of a game misconduct last game … and the Chiefs were fined $250 because the player Schmidt hit, Darren Kramer, went to the TC lockerroom, opened the door and confronted Schmidt. … Don't know the exact details of that but there was a WHL official at the game, so it apparently wasn't as serious as the Americans made it out to be after the game, but wasn't a nothing incident as the Chiefs hinted.
One more thing … Chilliwack. The Bruins is movin' … and it hasn't been a pretty process. You've got to question the league and the owners in this situation.