KENNEWICK – It’s true that there was nothing on the line in terms of playoff seeding for the Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans on Tuesday night.
But for the Americans there was the opportunity to earn their 50th regular-season win in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history, and for the Chiefs there was pride.
In the end pride won.
Mitch Wahl scored the game-winning goal late in the third period and backup goalie James Reid made 34 saves as the Chiefs won their final regular-season game with a 2-1 Western Hockey League victory over the U.S. Division champion Americans at the Toyota Center.
The game was originally supposed to be played Saturday night in Kennewick, but was postponed when 11 Spokane players were stricken with food poisoning following the Chiefs’ 5-2 win over Tri-City on Friday night.
Reid, who filled in to give starter Dustin Tokarski a night off before the playoffs begin Friday night, improved his record to 11-5-0-1.
“Dustin’s a great goalie, but I’m ready when I get my chance,” Reid said in a television interview following the game. “I knew it was probably my last start of the season so I just wanted to give it my all and have a good last game.”
After a scoreless first period Spokane (46-23-0-3) took a 1-0 lead 13 minutes, 22 seconds into the second period when Drayson Bowman scored his team-leading 47th goal of the season. With Tri-City (49-20-0-3) on the power play, Ondrej Roman stole the puck from a Tri-City forward and passed the puck through the neutral zone to Bowman, who made a move around Kruise Reddick in the slot and backhanded the puck past Tri-City backup goalie Brett Martyniuk.
The Americans tied the game at 17:54 when Tyler Schmidt intercepted a pass in the Chiefs defensive zone and skated around two players before burying the puck past Reid.
With the clock winding down, Wahl’s winning goal came at 17:42 in the final period after a smart play by veteran defenseman Jared Spurgeon.
From the top of the right circle, Spurgeon faked a shot and instead passed the puck to Wahl at the bottom of the left circle and Wahl finished the play with a top shelf goal – his 32nd goal of the season.
The fourth-seeded Chiefs open the WHL playoffs Friday and Saturday at the Arena against the fifth-seeded Seattle Thunderbirds before the series shifts to Kent, Wash., for Games 3 and 4 Tuesday and next Wednesday. … Bowman was named the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Week for the week ending Sunday after recording back-to-back four-point nights, including three goals and five assists with a plus-minus rating of plus-3 in Spokane’s two games last week. This was Bowman’s second time winning the honor this season.