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Beach’s late score caps Spokane’s rally

PORTLAND – Kyle Beach and the Spokane Chiefs gutted one out.

Beach scored the winning goal with 1 minute, 28 seconds remaining as the Spokane Chiefs defeated the Portland Winterhawks 5-4 in the teams’ Western Hockey League playoff series opener Saturday night at the Rose Garden.

Beach, coming back from a knee injury, buried a shot from the high slot to cap off a game that saw Spokane come back twice from two-goal deficits. The goal was Beach’s second of the night.

The Chiefs entered the third period trailing 4-2, but goals by Stefan Ulmer and Tyler Johnson in the first 6:25 changed that and tied the game at 4.

First it was Ulmer, who gave the Chiefs life when he kept the puck in the Portland zone on a power play. He blasted a shot from the high slot to make it 4-3 on an unassisted goal at the 4:37 mark.

Johnson tied the game less than 2 minutes later with a wrap-around goal he sneaked low past Portland goalie Mac Carruth, who appeared to have things covered at the right post.

That set the stage for Beach’s winner and capped Spokane’s three-goal third period as the Chiefs took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

“Two words sum it up – guts and determination,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “It was a great way to start this series on the road.”

The Winterhawks had two-goal leads at the end of the first two periods and outshot Spokane by a 2-to-1 margin for most of the game, coming out with an up-tempo, physical style of play that stymied the Chiefs.

The Winterhawks got on the board just 2:47 into the game when Stefan Schneider intercepted a pass at the blue line, took it up the middle of the ice, and split the Chiefs’ defense. He put the puck in the top-right corner of the net on a wrist shot from the top of the left circle on Portland’s first shot of the game.

The Winterhawks made it 2-0 on a power-play goal by Taylor Aronson at the 9:31 mark of the first on an opportunistic goal. Portland’s Ryan Johansen hit the left post and the rebound caromed out and hit the skate of a Chiefs defenseman, deflecting quickly toward the right side of the crease where Aronson put it into the net.

Spokane got two goals in the second period on just five shots to tie the game, but would give it right back by the end of the period.

The Chiefs cut the lead to 2-1 just 4 minutes into the period on a power-play goal by Beach. The play was set up by Jared Spurgeon. Spurgeon hovered in the right circle with the puck to draw the defense and zipped a pass over to a wide-open Beach, who one-timed it from the left circle.

Spokane struck again quickly, getting the tying goal just 2:03 later. The Chiefs’ Steve Kuhn out-hustled Portland’s defensemen to a loose puck between the circles and drifted to the left, zipping it high to the glove side past Carruth to make it 2-2.

The Winterhawks scored two goals in the final 4:23 to end the period with a 4-2 lead.

The first goal came when Portland’s Aaron Ross sneaked behind the Chiefs’ defense, took a pass from Nino Niederreiter between Spokane’s defense, and buried a one-timer from the left slot at the 15:37 mark.

Then, in the final minute, Johansen found open ice and feathered a drop pass to Luca Sbisa as the clock wound down. Sbisa blasted a shot from the high slot that Chiefs goalie James Reid never saw with 36.7 seconds left in the period.

Ryan Letts (leg injury) was a scratch for the game and remains day-to-day.