The chase for home-ice advantage in the Western Hockey League playoffs heated up Friday as the Spokane Chiefs edged the Tri-City Americans 4-3 in a shootout while Seattle lost and Everett won. Read story
Mitch Holmberg had to admit that the playoff chase is getting wild.
"It’s crazy, but I think it’s happened to me before when it’s been so close going down to the last game," said Spokane's offensive leader.
"For me, going into the playoffs, this is a big game," Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. "To win this game means we have a chance for fourth place or fifth and not slide down the ladder."
Liam Stewart said the looming playoffs influenced his return. Stewart had still been listed as 1-2 weeks away on the Chiefs' injury report with his lower-body (foot) injury.
"I just wanted to get a game in before the playoffs, so I just kind of pushed through it," Stewart said. "It’s feeling better now. I’ll be ready for the playoffs."
Americans backup goalie Evan Sarthou made life difficult for Spokane, stopping 39 of 42 shots. Regular goalie Eric Comrie, third in the league in save percentage, took the night off.
"The kid played great," Holmberg said. "He made big saves when he had to."
"I thought we had too many guys who were looking for an easy game or looking for a different game plan," Nachbaur said. … "But, we found a way. We did (dominate much of the game), but it’s not the Kelowna Rockets we’re playing out there. We have to be better."
The Chiefs played penalty-free until Mike Aviani picked up a hooking call with 2:03 left. The Americans had already pulled Sarthou, so they used the opportunity to skate 6-on-4 against the Chiefs. Spokane goalie Eric Williams turned them back until Parker Bowles sent the game into overtime with a slap shot with 31 seconds left.
Spokane is 8-2-0-1 against Tri-City this season heading into Saturday's regular-season finale.
The Chiefs finished 21-13-1-1 at home. Their road record (19-12-2-2) is much the same.