The Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs still are battling for fourth place in the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference, but home-ice advantage won’t be an issue unless their first-round playoff series reaches seven games.
Because Spokane Arena will host an NCAA women’s basketball regional, the hockey teams had to compromise on their playoff dates.
With the basketball tournament scheduled for March 30 and April 1, the Chiefs would not be able to host games during that time if they wound up being the No. 5 seed.
“Due to the city and Spokane Arena hosting the women’s NCAA basketball tournament, our availability for dates was limited,” Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz said in a news release. “We appreciate the Americans’ cooperation and flexibility in scheduling the dates to give us the opportunity to play in our building when we have it available to us.
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“The Chiefs, the Spokane Arena and our fans thank Bob Tory and his organization for being a good league partner,” Speltz added.
Tory, the Americans’ general manager, said there really were no other options.
“The league has a timeline to finish the series,” Tory said. “It took tremendous cooperation by both teams. We had to try and get creative for a schedule that worked for everyone. We are fortunate the proximity of the teams allowed us to do that.”
No matter which team finishes fourth, the first-round series will begin in Spokane with Games 1 and 2 on March 22 and 23.
Games 3, 4 and 5, if necessary, will be played March 26, 28 and 30 at the Toyota Center. If needed, Game 6 would be April 2 in Spokane.
If the series stretches to Game 7, the team that finished fourth in the Western Conference would host the final game April 3.
“If we were to finish fourth, from a business side, it is a huge impact,” Tory said. “We lose a Friday date, but we have a Saturday. When you open at home, you get the energy of the crowd. It might be a moot point.
“Bottom line is we had to make the schedule work.”
The Americans and Chiefs each have three games remaining in the regular season, including a home-and-home series Friday in Spokane and Saturday in Kennewick.
The Americans (40-25-1-3, 84 points) are two points behind Spokane in the standings.
w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; email@example.com; Twitter: @tchicequeen