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Chiefs Notebook: Crunch time

It's do or die time for the Spokane Chiefs.

Derek Leung/Getty Images

The final four games of the season are upon us, and the Chiefs are clinging to a playoff spot.

As of this writing, that playoff berth is the second wild card spot. If the standings today hold form, the Chiefs would play the Victoria Royals in the first round of the playoffs.

The Chiefs would prefer to stay stateside for the playoffs and catching the Portland Winterhawks would be ideal. That would move Spokane into third place in the U.S. Division, the spot currently held by the Winterhawks, who sit two points ahead of the Chiefs.

The Chiefs have a game in hand on the Hawks.

But in the rearview mirror sit the pesky Tri-City Americans. A 6-1 victory last week at home against the Ams temporarily gave the Chiefs comfort.

But then the Ams went on to get wins over Everett and Kelowna, while the Chiefs were crushed at home against Kelowna. Suddenly the Ams sit two points behind the Chiefs.

Working in the Chiefs' favor, though, is that they have two games in hand on Tri-City. The two teams end the season against each other in Kennewick on March 19.

The Chiefs play four games in five nights - all on the road - beginning tonight in Seattle. It's an all-U.S. Division road trip, so the Chiefs can either help or hurt themselves. It's pretty simple.

The injury bug is still biting the team, though leading scorer Kailer Yamamoto recently returned. Captain and top defenseman Jason Fram remains out, as does 20-year-old Wyatt Johnson, Jacob Cardiff, Evan Fiala and rookies Ethan McIndoe and Jeff Faith.

And today's weekly report shows starting goaltender Tyson Verhelst is week-to-week with an upper body injury.

With those players out, making the playoffs will be a big accomplishment for this young team.

Other stuff

  • The Chiefs handed out some team awards prior to the March 5 game against Kelowna. Kailer Yamamoto took home the most sportsmanlike award, and then went out and got booted from the game for mouthing off to the refs.
  • The Chiefs really laid an egg against Kelowna in that game. Sure, Kelowna is among the top teams in the league, but the Rockets are without Nick Merkely and their goalie, Jackson Whistle. The frustration from the team was evident throughout the game.
  • Former goalie Jarrod Daniel was recognized by the team with the Scholastic Alumni Achievement Award. Daniel tended net for the Chiefs during the 1994-95 season. He is now a surgeon in Charlotte, N.C. and the team doctor for the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League.