KENNEWICK – When you score four goals, especially against the Tri-City Americans at the Toyota Center, it might seem a stretch to say that defense was the Spokane Chiefs’ biggest asset Friday night.
Defense on the penalty kill, to be more precise.
The Chiefs killed off eight of nine Tri-City power plays, including a 5-on-3 advantage early in the third period that the Americans turned into a 6-on-3 by pulling goalie Drew Owsley, in skating to a 4-1 Western Hockey League victory that dealt the U.S. Division-leading Americans their second loss in 12 home games.
Spokane, which finished a stretch of five straight road games with a 3-1-1 record, built a 4-0 lead at 13:08 of the second period, launching 42 shots at Owsley through 40 minutes, then spent the third period denying the Ams.
Tri-City, which managed just 22 shots on Spokane goalie James Reid the first two periods, took 21 in the third. The only one that eluded Reid was Brendan Shinnimin’s rebound shot on a power play at 13:57 of the third.
“Our special teams won us this game tonight,” said Spokane coach Hardy Sauter, alluding to the penalty kill along with a power-play goal and a short-handed goal.
“We got a good effort from everyone,” Sauter added. “It was a great road win for us.”
Blake Gal set the table on two Spokane goals, feeding Tyler Johnson for the short-handed goal 3:09 into the game, and finding Mitch Wahl in front for his 19th goal that capped the Spokane scoring.
It was Johnson’s 14th goal and fifth in the last four games.
Jared Cowen scored for Spokane on the power play at 10:18 of the first, and Brenden Kichton’s first goal of the season, matching his total from a year ago, gave the Chiefs a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Spokane eased ahead of Everett, which dropped a 4-2 decision to Regina on Friday, into third place in the U.S. Division. Portland stayed two points ahead of Spokane in second.