Now is not the time to lose key players to injury.That's exactly what's happening to the Spokane Chiefs, as the playoff race starts to get tighter.
The Chiefs have been without leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto for the past six games and 20-year-old Wyatt Johnson for the past ten. Both have upper body injuries.
Those are two key players and to make matters worse, top defenseman and team captain Jason Fram has sat out the past two games with an undisclosed injury.
Injuries this time of year can be costly, especially with the playoffs looming.
The Chiefs currently sit in third place in the U.S. Division, four points behind the Seattle Thunderbirds and two points ahead of the Portland Winterhawks. And don't count the Tri-City Americans out, either, as they have suddenly started to show some life.
The Chiefs have also scratched Niklas Andersen, forcing the team to bump a defenseman to the forward position.
The team has also deployed a line of all rookies on a number of occasions (before the injuries and after, to be fair). Oftentimes it's an all-16-year-old line (Saturday's overtime win against Kootenay featured a line of Hayden Ostir, Ethan McIndoe and Jaret Anderson-Dolan).
Those rookies are gaining some valuable minutes, however, and that can come in handy down the line.
We'll see how soon Yamamoto, Johnson and Fram get back into the lineup.
The Chiefs played three games in three nights over the weekend and came away with three of a possible six points.
They lost in a shootout in Cranbrook to the Kootenay Ice on Friday. Kootenay scored with three seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime.
The Chiefs repaid the favor the following night in Spokane with a 4-3 overtime win. Keanu Yamamoto scored two goals, including the game-winner with three seconds left in overtime. His game-winner was the result of a no-look pass from Hudson Elynuik.
An early Sunday game against Everett ended in a 3-2 loss. Elynuik had an assist to extend his point streak to ten games.
The Chiefs get some rest before another three-in-three stretch this weekend in Seattle (Friday), at home against Tri-City (Saturday), and back across the Cascades in Everett (Sunday).
In Other News....
- This is a little old, but former Chief Michael Grabner surprised his Spokane billets with Super Bowl Tickets. Rachael McCann was able to see her beloved Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl.
- There was a pretty big trade in the NHL last week, and former Chief Jared Cowen was involved.
- Future Chief Ty Smith (though he's played two games so far this season) has been named captain for Team Canada at the Youth Olympic Games, a tournament for 15-year-olds. Canada is 1-1 so far with a win over Finland and a loss to Russia. The U.S. is 2-0 with wins over Norway and Finland.
Video Vault: Angry Goalie
The Chiefs released Garrett Hughson earlier this season. The netminder struggled at the start of the season and spent some time with the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League. He's now playing for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
This week's video flashes back to last year in Victoria, where a clearly frustrated Hughson takes out his anger on the bench after being pulled.
As someone who has broken sticks on the bench out of anger, I can't say I blame him. Oftentimes that's the best medicine.