KENNEWICK – The blink of an eye. The snap of a finger. Four little frames.
In real time, less than 1 second. That’s what separated the Chiefs and Tri-City Americans from a second straight night of overtime in their Western Hockey League playoff tilt on Saturday night.
Corbin Baldwin’s shot from the point – which would have sent the rival teams into sudden death – found the back of the net as the buzzer sounded. Upon review, officials determined time had expired before the puck crossed the line.
The entire Chiefs bench – which celebrated the goal and appeared confident that the call would go their way – watched as the officials reviewed the play, only to disappear into the tunnel disappointed when the goal was waved off. The 2-1 victory for the Americans – in front of 4,368 fans at the Toyota Center – tied the best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series 1-1.
“I looked up at the clock and knew how much time was left when that shot went,” said Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur, who was certain the puck made it in time. “As soon as it entered I looked up again and that horn didn’t come until after the puck was in the net.”
As Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz explained, the review system doesn’t leave room for error. Thirty frames are shown per second, meaning Baldwin’s shot was about one-sixth of a second (four frames) too late.
Had the Chiefs played better prior to that moment, perhaps it wouldn’t have come down to a 5-minute scramble and a split-second reviewable decision.
“That’s how we’re looking at it,” Chiefs captain Darren Kramer said. “Maybe at the end we would have never been in that situation. You can look at it that way, or look at it like we got cheated – but it doesn’t help us to think of it that way. We battled in the last few minutes to even it up.”
And in all reality, they wouldn’t have even been in the position for Baldwin’s goal to count had it not been for Mitch Holmberg’s power-play goal 18 minutes, 35 seconds into the final period.
The Americans got on the board 13:21 into the first period when Adam Hughesman one-timed a pass from Brendan Shinnimin past Chiefs goalie Eric Williams, who finished with 31 saves and turned in another outstanding performance.
After a scoreless second, Tri-City extended its lead to 2-0 on a Justin Feser goal 4:01 into the third.
Holmberg’s goal – with assists from Blake Gal and Dylan Walchuk – came after Spokane finally picked up its pace in the final minutes of the game.
“We didn’t play well enough,” Nachbaur said. “There were too many missed performances by some of our players.
“We made too many mistakes, and to be honest, that’s not the way we want to play. We just didn’t execute. We need to play our style.”
Spokane was 1 for 5 on the power play and 5 for 5 on the penalty kill. In the first two games combined, Spokane was on the penalty kill 12 times. … Holmberg leads Spokane with eight goals in the playoffs. … Tri-City goalie Ty Rimmer finished with 23 saves.