Until last Friday, the Spokane Chiefs had played U.S. Division foes in just ten times in 27 games.
The Chiefs' 7-1 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds was the first of 12 straight games against U.S. Division opponents. The Chiefs are three points behind the T-Birds for first place in the division, and play their next two games against their rivals from Seattle.
It's safe to say this stretch in the schedule is important and may paint the U.S. Division picture for the remainder of the season. The best way to separate yourself from the rest of the division is to win games within the division.
I brought this up after the thundering of the Thunderbirds last Friday to Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur, and he didn't put much weight on division games versus games outside the division. Maybe he's keeping his cards close, or maybe he really feels that way.
Speaking of the Chiefs 7-1 win, boy was it a dominating game.
I thought the game turned when two-thirds of the T-Birds top line took themselves out of the game after fighting.
First, it was Mathew Barzal dancing with Keanu Yamamoto (Yamamoto's first fight ever, he told me). Not long after, Keegan Kolesar fought the Chiefs' Tyson Helgesen after Helgesen dropped Gropp with big hit along the boards.
By that time, the Chiefs already had a 2-0 lead and Adam Helewka scored two goals 19 seconds apart, forcing the T-Birds to pull goaltender Logan Flodell. From then on, Seattle had virtually no scoring chances.
Helewka scored later in the game to complete the hat trick and the Chiefs had themselves a dominating 7-1 win. Nachbaur called it the team's best game of the season.
The two teams play Wednesday and Friday night, the latter taking place in Kent.
Chiefs to wear "faux-back" sweaters
To celebrate the WHL's 50th season and 100 years of hockey in Spokane, the Chiefs will don what they're calling "faux-back" sweaters on Dec. 19 against Portland.
Why "faux-back" sweaters as opposed to "throw-back" sweaters? Well, the team will honor the old Spokane Canaries, the first hockey team to play in Spokane, and there aren't a lot of photographs of the team (there are some, but not much). So the team came up with the sweater design in the photos above. Looks pretty cool to me.
The Canaries were part of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association - the same league that featured the Seattle Metropolitans that went on to win the Stanley Cup. The great Lester Patrick created the team after he was forced out of his arena in Victoria, British Columbia due to World War I. The team played in the Elm Street Arena, which burned down some time ago. All that is left (that I'm aware of) is just the land it sat on.
I have a book called "Saturday Nights Were Special" with more details. I'll have to dig that out.
Two Chiefs selected for World Junior Championships prelim rosters
Forward Nik Andersen and goaltender Lasse Petersen have been named to Denmark's preliminary World Juniors roster. Petersen lists his hometown as Swan River, Manitoba, but he was born in Denmark so I guess that makes him eligible.
Meanwhile, Dominic Zwerger was selected to play for Team Austria at the World Junior Championship Division I Group A tournament, which is basically one step below the World Juniors that features Canada, the United States, Russia, etc.
Zwerger has 22 points (11g, 11a) and is playing top line minutes with Kailer Yamamoto and Adam Helewka. He'll be gone starting Dec. 9 and will return Dec. 27.
Video Vault: Dustin Tokarski the thief
Speaking of the World Juniors, let's flash back to the 2009 tournament.
That year, the Chiefs sent Drayson Bowman, Mitch Wahl and Tyler Johnson to Team USA, and Dustin Tokarski to Team Canada.
Canada went on to win gold, and Tokarski burst onto the scene with a great save against Colin Wilson of the U.S..:
Pierre McGuire was quite impressed.