Chiefs take aim at third

It seems like just yesterday the Spokane Chiefs were hoisting various trophies – the Ed Chynoweth Cup and the Memorial Cup – high above their heads in celebration.

But in reality it’s been almost a year. With the Western Hockey League playoffs just around the corner, it’s just about time for the Chiefs to officially defend what they worked so hard to earn last season.

“(Yesterday) is the first day it kind of sunk in,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “It’s just remarkable that the regular season is almost over.”

The Chiefs will close out the regular season this week, playing three of their four final games on home ice.

Spokane will host the Everett Silvertips tonight at the Arena in the eighth and final meeting of the season between the U.S. Division opponents. The Chiefs are 6-1 in their past seven meetings with the Silvertips, including a 3-0 record at the Arena in which Spokane has outscored Everett by a 12-1 margin and posted two shutouts.

Spokane takes on the Tri-City Americans in a home-and-home series Friday (in Spokane) and Saturday (in Kennewick) and hosts the Kelowna Rockets on Sunday in the regular-season finale.

Though Vancouver and Tri-City have already locked up the Western Conference’s top two seeds, respectively, the Chiefs and Rockets are still battling for the third seed.

Kelowna, which hosts Portland tonight and will play a home-and-home series against the Kamloops Blazers on Friday and Saturday, is third with 90 points, one more than Spokane. Sunday’s game between the Rockets and Chiefs at the Arena could determine which team wins the battle for the conference’s third seed.

“(This week) is big in the sense that we haven’t played as well as we’ve wanted to in the last couple of weeks,” Sauter said. “We have the chance to finish third in the conference, and we’re going to play hard and try and reach that goal.”

The third-seeded team will play the No. 6 seed in the first round of the playoffs, while the team that finishes fourth will play the fifth-seeded team.

Kamloops and the Seattle Thunderbirds are currently the fifth- and sixth-place teams, respectively, with only one point separating them in the WHL standings.

Ice chips

Sauter said veteran blueliner Trevor Glass – who has been out for a couple of weeks with an upper body injury – is likely to play later this weekend. … The Chiefs-Ams games this weekend will both be broadcast live on Comcast channel 78. In the 10 previous meetings the home team has won eight times and four of the games have ended with a one-goal difference. Spokane is 5-4-0-1 on the season with a 4-1 record at home against the Ams. Tri-City, which has won the past two meetings, is also 5-4-0-1 with a 4-0-0-1 record at home. … Tickets are on sale for the Chiefs’ first two games of the playoffs, which Spokane will host March 20 and 21.

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