After scoring 11 goals Saturday night, one had to wonder if the Spokane Chiefs had used up their allotted goals scored for the weekend.
And for two periods, it looked like it was headed that way.
Then the comeback kids hit the Arena ice in a thrilling third period during which the Chiefs scored five goals – including an empty-net goal – and went on to a 5-3 Western Hockey League victory over the Prince George Cougars in front of a large Sunday night crowd of 7,019.
The win pulled the Chiefs (38-16-0-3) within two points of the Tri-City Americans (39-16-0-3) for the U.S. Division lead, and the Chiefs have played one fewer game – making them dead even, in theory.
“It was big,” said Chiefs sniper Drayson Bowman, who finished with two goals – including the game-tying goal on a power play 17 minutes, 48 seconds into the final period. “Coach (Hardy Sauter) told us before the game that it was one of the games in hand that we had against them, so we’re one more game closer to them now.”
In net for Prince George was former Spokane goalie Kevin Armstrong, who turned in a very respectable effort. Armstrong, who played for Spokane last season during the Chiefs’ run to the Memorial Cup championship, made 41 saves in the game – including 27 in the first two periods.
“He played excellent,” Bowman said. “You put that many shots on a team you’re probably going to win the game, and unfortunately for him our goals came all at once. But I thought he played well. It wasn’t his fault that they lost.
“Our coaches harped on it all night to keep pressing and keep shooting the puck … and we just kept at it, kept putting pucks on net, and it finally opened up for us.”
It wasn’t until the third period that Spokane got one past Armstrong. Chiefs captain Justin McCrae scored 2 minutes into the period when he carried a pass from Ryan Letts through the neutral zone and into the right circle before he took his shot. The puck bounced off Armstrong’s right pad and slowly slid across the goal line.
After killing a penalty, which Spokane had failed to do once in the first period and once in the second on goals by Marek Viedensky, Bowman scored his first of the night. He took a Brady Calla pass from the bottom of the right circle to the top, his sweet spot, and fired a shot that sailed past Armstrong 8:01 into the period. As time wound down Bowman found the back of the net again – another goal from the top of the right circle – taking advantage of a too many men on the ice penalty on Prince George.
“We learned a lot about the guys on our team tonight,” Bowman said. “It’s the end of three games in three nights so it would have been easy to shut it down, but we battled.”
And they were finally rewarded when Ondrej Roman broke the 3-3 tie. With 40 seconds remaining on the clock, the Dallas Stars prospect swatted in a pass from Calla and scored the game-winning goal from the top of the left circle. Levko Koper finished off the scoring with an empty-net goal at 19:54 after Mitch Wahl stole the puck from a Cougar forward in the neutral zone.
“I was standing in front of the net (for Ondrej’s goal) and I watched it go right by me – it was awesome,” Bowman said. “It was perfect – right under the bar.
“It was a great shot.”
It was also the perfect end to a great weekend.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon notched three assists in the game and had eight points between Saturday and Sunday’s games. … Star defenseman Jared Cowen will have reconstructive surgery on his knee Wednesday in Minneapolis and will return to Spokane afterward. Cowen suffered a season-ending ACL and MCL injury that happened as he finished a check during the Chiefs’ 6-0 victory against Chilliwack on Jan. 30. … Spokane hosts the Seattle Thunderbirds on Wednesday and travels to Seattle for the second half of the home-and-home series Friday.
Chiefs 5, Cougars 3
First Period—1. Prince George, M. Viedensky (11) (B. Connolly, D. Jackson) 6:02 PP 2. Prince George, D. Jackson (12) (M. Viedensky) 10:05.
Second Period—3. Prince George, M. Viedensky (12) (B. Connolly, C. Scherger) 8:39 PP .
Third Period—4. Spokane, J. McCrae (5) (R. Letts) 1:57 5. Spokane, D. Bowman (31) (B. Calla, O. Roman) 8:01 6. Spokane, D. Bowman (32) (J. Spurgeon, M. Wahl) 17:48 PP 7. Spokane, O. Roman (7) (B. Calla, J. Spurgeon) 19:22 8. Spokane, L. Koper (19) (M. Wahl, J. Spurgeon) 19:53.
Power-play Opp.—Prince George 2 of 5; Spokane 1 of 3. Saves—Prince George, Armstrong 10-17-14—41. Spokane, Tokarski 8-4-9—21. A—7,019.