The Spokane Chiefs were done, cooked, hung out to dry.
Mitch Holmberg had a different idea.
Holmberg scored three goals and assisted on another during the final 11 minutes, 51 seconds of regulation and added a shootout goal Friday night as the Chiefs shocked the Seattle Thunderbirds 7-6 with a crazy rally in Western Hockey League play at the Arena.
“When you’re down 6-2 and you look at the scoreboard, you know it’s going to be hard,” said Holmberg, who finished with three goals, for 22 this season, and two assists. “But we knew we still had a chance and still had time on the clock.”
Holmberg started the comeback by scoring to the upper net on a 5-on-3 power play to trim Seattle’s lead to 6-3.
He added a goal with 5:29 left and energized the crowd by trimming the deficit to 6-5 with a score with 2:51 remaining.
“I thought once it hit 6-4 the belief definitely came in,” Holmberg said.
The Chief pulled goaltender Garret Hughson with a little more than a minute left. Down to their final 55 seconds, they tied the game at 6 when Holmberg fed Mike Aviani for his 17th goal of the season.
“You saw (Mitch) on the bench and he wanted to be out there all the time, from the look in his eye,” said Jon Klemm, who is serving as Spokane’s acting head coach while Don Nachbaur helps to coach Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. “He wanted to be the difference-maker and he was tonight.”
Holmberg also had a 1-on-1 breakaway with 1:45 left in overtime, but Seattle’s Brandon Glover stopped him to stall Spokane for a moment.
In the shootout, Holmberg shot first for Spokane and scored. Connor Sanvido followed suit for the Thunderbirds, then Spokane’s Todd Fiddler and Seattle’s Seth Swenson were both turned back.
Chiefs captain Brenden Kichton put the pressure on Seattle by scoring, and Hughson wrapped up the win by stopping Roberts Lipsbergs.
“Hats off to our guys for sticking with it and not quitting and coming back in the third period,” Klemm said.
“You don’t want to go through many of those,” he added. “We weren’t very good for a lot of the game.”
Hughson replaced Eric Williams after Spokane’s starting goalie allowed five goals off 18 shots. Hughson got off to an auspicious start when Seattle’s Connor Honey, who had one goal and two assists, scored just 1:27 into the third period for a 6-2 lead.
But Hughson stopped the other six shots he faced and Holmberg stepped to the front for a Chiefs team that outshot Seattle 47-25.
“It was pretty special, obviously,” Klemm said. “Mitch is a bit part of our team and a big part of our offense.”
Spokane (23-8-1-0, 47 points) improved to 4-1 against Seattle (16-15-1-1) and 13-2 at home. Spokane has four consecutive wins against the Thunderbirds.
Notes: The Chiefs listed Tanner Mort (upper body, indefinite) and Adam Power (upper body, week-to-week) on their injury report. … Blake Gal played in his 285th game for the Chiefs, placing him 10th in franchise history. … Fans are encouraged to donate teddy bears at tonight’s game by tossing them on the ice after
the Chiefs’ first goal.