The Spokane Chiefs had the best week possible, providing them a boost as the Western Hockey League's regular season enters its final three weeks. Read story
The Chiefs went 3 for 3 during the week and picked up six points, the maximum number possible. Defeating Tri-City on Friday and Saturday stretched the Chiefs' edge over the Americans from three to seven points. Spokane has 64 points, Tri-City 57.
"We knew coming in (to the week) that it’s desperation time," Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. "We raised our level tonight, but it won’t be an easy game against Vancouver (Tuesday at the Arena) because they’re right behind us."
Vancouver (55 points) isn't the only team right behind. Prince George (56), which would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today because of its No. 3 standing in the B.C. Division, is trying to hold off Vancouver and Kamloops (54) while both teams chase Tri-City. The top three teams in both divisions (Vancouver's B.C. and Spokane's U.S.) automatically move on to postseason, as do the two teams with the next-best records. For the moment, that's Spokane and Tri-City, but the Chiefs added important points to the gap this weekend.
"We’re both going into the playoff push here and at 8-1 (Spokane's decision over Tri-City on Saturday), I think they were getting a little frustrated," said Curtis Miske, the evening's surprising hero with his first career WHL hat trick. "But we just have to stick with that and keep going. It's bit of a rivalry there."
Spokane and Tri-City will meet two more times during the regular season. The Chiefs' two weekend wins, by a combined score of 12-1, came against a banged-up Americans team that defeated Spokane 7-0 on Jan. 17 and 2-0 on Jan. 24 when the shoe was on the other foot.
"All things considered, we took some steps forward," Nachbaur said. "It always helps to have more guys that are active and that’s what we have right now."
Six Chiefs scored multiple points on Saturday: Miske, three goals; Adam Helewka, two goals and one assist; Jason Fram, two assists; Liam Stewart, one goal and one assist; and Spokane natives and brothers Keanu and Kailer Yamamoto, three assists apiece.
"We got three or four goals from our younger guys and that’s a real bonus for us," Nachbaur said. "We need that depth. We did it the right way. We got pucks to the net ... and we didn’t turn a lot of pucks over on the rush."
"We were preaching to get pucks on the net and get guys to the net and it worked out for us," Miske said.