While the 5,569 fans at the Arena may have been disappointed the Spokane Chiefs got an early Christmas present Friday night.
Despite being extremely short-handed and trailing late, the Chiefs earned a point in a 3-2 overtime loss to Seattle, the first win for Thunderbirds in five tries against Spokane, which lost its third-straight one-goal game at home.
“It’s not perfect when you don’t get two (points) at home but at the same time we found a way to get one,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “I liked that the young guys are learning and they can give that little extra when we need it.
“It’s disappointing, sure, but … to get the point, that could be the point at the end that makes a difference.”
The Chiefs (21-10-3, 45 points) were without top defenseman Jared Cowen and third-leading scorer Tyler Johnson, who are at World Junior camps, and leading scorer Kyle Beach sat out with a minor concussion.
“It’s exhausting to be without (those three),” defenseman Stefan Ulmer said. “You have to battle through. It’s good for the young guys to get the ice time they deserve.”
And it was a young guy, 17-year old rookie Anthony Barbaro, who got the Chiefs the point with his first Western Hockey League goal at 11:06 of the third period.
It was the result of hard work from the all-rookie line Bardaro centers with Mitch Holmberg, 16, on the left wing and Brady Brassart, 16, on the right.
“I came out of the corner, saw a lane to the net and tried to get the puck on the net because we were down a goal. I got a lucky bounce and it went in,” Bardaro said of his backhand floater that seemed to go off goalie Calvin Pickard’s shoulder. “It took long enough.”
But it was Seattle (13-19-4, 30) that came through in the end, dominating the overtime and out-shooting the Chiefs 5-0.
Seattle kept Chiefs pinned in their own end and managed to make a line change. The Chiefs got the puck out and went for the line change but the T-Birds quickly turned the action around for a three-on-two. Jeremy Schappert put a shot on goal from the right side and Charles Wells was there to knock the rebound past James Reid.
“It was a mistake by the forwards changing two guys,” Ulmer said. “Mistakes happen.”
Spokane took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a nifty goal by Mitch Wahl. Defenseman Tanner Mort, playing forward, sent a cross-ice pass to Kenton Miller on the left board and he hit Wahl at the Seattle blue line. Wahl kicked the puck to his stick, drove down the middle on a breakaway and went left to his backhand, putting his 14th goal of the season in the top shelf.
The Thunderbirds tied it early in the second period when Chiefs’ defenseman Corbin Baldwin passed the puck right to T-Bird Mikhail Sentyurin, who walked in alone and shot the puck right into Spokane goalie James Reid. The puck dribbled through his pads and trickled across the goal line for Sentyurin’s second of the season.
Seattle went ahead early in the third period when Prab Rai’s slap shot from the left point ticked off the post and blew past Reid.
“Again, we played well enough to win,” Sauter said. “I didn’t like any of their goals. Not that they weren’t good goals if you’re a Seattle fan. But from our point of view the first one was a giveaway and the third one was a turnover.
“The second one, on a good night doesn’t go in. It’s too bad but at the same time I loved the fact we came down from down one to tie it, I loved the fact that Anthony Bardaro got his first goal in the league, I loved the fact the penalty kill was solid. It wasn’t perfect but there are a lot of good things to go into the break we’re concentrating on.”