The final postseason puzzle for the Spokane Chiefs is whether their first-round opponent will be the Everett Silvertips or the Portland Winterhawks. Read story
After Saturday's play in the Western Hockey League, including Spokane's 5-2 win over Tri-City, the Chiefs knew one more important detail about the upcoming playoffs:
Although the chance was already slim, Tri-City officially can't catch the Chiefs for the Western Conference's No. 7 seed, meaning Spokane will avoid a first-round matchup with No. 1 Kelowna.
Spokane (72 points) could still feasibly catch Seattle (77) for the U.S. Division's No. 3 spot, but that won't change the Chiefs' current fate of opening against either Everett or Portland.
If Spokane remains the conference's No. 7, it will open against the U.S. Division champion, Everett or Portland. If the Chiefs jump into Seattle's No. 3 division spot, they'll open against the U.S. Division's runner-up team, also Everett or Portland.
Everett (90 points) gained some ground on Portland (86) on Saturday when the Silvertips defeated Seattle while Portland lost to Prince George in a shootout. Portland has five games remaining, including two against the Chiefs, and Everett has three games left, including one against Spokane. Everett and Portland could finished tied in points, in which case the first tiebreaker is the team with the most number of victories. Everett has one more win than Portland after Saturday. The second tiebreaker is the team with the most points in games against the two teams.
Whichever team Spokane faces, the Chiefs will open the series on the road, most likely March 27 and 28.
Spokane is playing well, with three consecutive wins and seven wins in their last 10 games.
It's certainly a relief to the Chiefs to see Rookie of the Year candidate Kailer Yamamoto return to his scoring ways. Before Saturday's two-goal night, Yamamoto had been held to three goals in his last 13 games.
"Young guys are trying to find consistency," Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said. "He's had a great year and we want to finish it the right way. He does so many other things than score. ... I thought Kailer and Calder Brooks (also two goals) upped the ante as far as work ethic and compete level, and the rest happened because of that."
"You can't always just contribute in goals," Yamamoto said. "You have to be a team player and just keep playing and fill your role."