Unless the Spokane Chiefs or Tri-City Americans lay an egg in the next two weeks, the teams will meet in the Western Hockey League playoffs for the third consecutive season.
That means the final seven-game sprint of the regular season for the Chiefs is a contest to win home-ice advantage.
Tri-City (39-24-1-2, 81 points) has a one-point edge over the Chiefs (39-24-2-0, 80) for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. The Americans have six games remaining, the Chiefs seven.
Under the WHL’s playoff format, the fourth-place team earns home ice during a best-of-7 opening-round series against the No. 5 team.
Kamloops clinched at least the No. 3 seed on Tuesday and Spokane is 10 points ahead of sixth-place Victoria, so strange things would have to happen to keep the Chiefs and Ams from meeting in postseason.
Tri-City defeated the Chiefs 4-3 in a second-round series last season. Spokane beat the Ams 4-2 in a second-round series two years ago.
Spokane leads this year’s series with the Ams 5-3-2-0 with games remaining March 15 in Spokane and March 16 in Kennewick. Tri-City has won four of the last five matchups.
Both teams are on hot streaks. Tri-City has won eight of its last 11 and Spokane is on a five-game winning streak, including three road wins last week.
“It gives us confidence. I think our team game is better,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said after recent home wins over ranked teams Edmonton and Kamloops.
Spokane’s schedule appears favorable, with five consecutive home games before the game in Kennewick. The homestand begins tonight against Seattle, which is 1-7 against Spokane this season, and continues Friday against Everett, which is 2-5 against the Chiefs.
Kichton moves up: Chiefs defenseman Brenden Kichton should pass Levko Koper (2006-11) during the homestand to become No. 3 in franchise history for games played.
Kichton has played in 327 games, three fewer than Koper.
“Spokane has given me a great opportunity, and I’m just glad I can give back to them and prove I belong here,” Kichton said.
Kichton should tie Tim Krymusa (1998-2003) for No. 2 (332 games) by the time the homestand ends.
Kichton, with 192 career assists, is two behind Pat Falloon (1988-91) for No. 2 on the Chiefs’ list.
Chiefs right wing Blake Gal will tie Mason Wallin (1998-2003) tonight for sixth place for games played, with 319.
Notes: Spokane backup goaltender Garret Hughson is 4-0 with a .937 save percentage and 1.97 goals-against average in his last four starts. … Spokane recalled 17-year-old defenseman Adam Power from the Spokane Braves after the team was eliminated from the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs. … Alessio Bertaggia, acquired from Brandon during a January trade, has seven goals in 10 games with the Chiefs.