The bus was all but ready. The Spokane Chiefs just needed a destination.
The Chiefs’ attention Wednesday night was firmly on Kelowna, British Columbia, where the host Rockets and the Seattle Thunderbirds played Game 7 of a Western Hockey League first-round series that would determine Spokane’s fate.
Kelowna won 3-2 in overtime, completing a comeback from a 3-0 series deficit and setting up a Western Conference semifinal between fourth-seeded Spokane and the top-seeded Portland Winterhawks. Second-seeded Kelowna will play third-seeded Kamloops in the other semifinal.
Spokane’s bus leaves today for the first two games of the seven-game set, Friday and Saturday nights. The series will move to the Arena on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Portland had the league’s best regular-season record (57-12-1-2) this season and the top three scorers, Brendan Leipsic (120 points), Nicolas Petan (120) and Ty Rattie (110). But the Winterhawks faltered a bit in their opening-round playoff series, dropping the opener before ultimately defeating Everett 4-2.
Portland won seven of nine games against the Chiefs this season, including the final four. The Winterhawks outscored Spokane 21-4 in those games.
Spokane rolled past Tri-City 4-1 in its first-round playoff. Counting the end of the regular season, the Chiefs have won 14 of their last 17 games.