The Spokane Chiefs gone from having their backs against the wall, to charging forward and picking up momentum along the way.
After losing their top defenseman, allowing 14 goals and dropping the first two games of their best-of-7, first-round Western Hockey League playoff series against the Vancouver Giants, the Chiefs have won three straight and taken a 3-2 series lead – picking up the first road win for either team in the series with a 5-1 victory on Friday in Vancouver.
If Spokane (3-2) wins Sunday night at the Arena, they’ll wrap up the series. If the Giants (2-3) win, the set will return to Vancouver for Game 7 on Wednesday. The winner will face the top-seeded Tri-City Americans in a Western Conference semifinal. The series will open on Friday with the first two games in Kennewick.
As they say, though, it’s not over until it’s over, and the Chiefs have been in this power postion against the Giants before.
When the teams met in the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs, Spokane built a 3-2 lead in the series, beating the Giants in Vancouver in Game 5, which ended 3-2 when Blake Gal scored for Spokane in quadruple overtime. The game is the second-longest game in WHL playoff history.
The Giants, however, won Game 6 in Spokane in double overtime and Game 7 in overtime at home.
Gal, defensemen Tanner Mort and Corbin Baldwin, and forward Steven Kuhn all played in the series on Spokane’s side, while forward Brendan Gallagher and defenseman Neil Manning played for the Giants – and have surely, by now, shared that experience with the younger guys.
“Guys like myself and Neil have to let the group know that this is possible,” Gallagher, the Giants’ captain and a Montreal Canadiens prospect, told the Vancouver Province following Game 5. “It’s something we can achieve. It’s most of all a mental thing.”
Spokane will be without captain Darren Kramer, who was given a one-game suspension for his “actions at (the) conclusion of (Game 5),” the league said when it announced the disciplinary move on Saturday. Kramer has scored two goals and two assists in Spokane’s five games.
Goalie Eric Williams is likely to get his fourth straight start for Spokane. In his three starts, he has stopped 70 of 75 shots for a .933 save percentage. … With one goal and seven assists, C Mike Aviani leads the Chiefs in scoring in five playoff games. RW Mitch Holmberg is second with five goals and two assists. … With a plus-4 performance on Friday, Mort – a Post Falls native – leads the Chiefs in plus-minus in the playoffs with a plus-6.