If Darren Kramer could stress one thing that the Spokane Chiefs have tried to commit to now that the postseason has arrived – it’s not stressing.
Never get too high. Never get too low.
So when Vancouver Giants captain Brendan Gallagher scored with 30 seconds remaining in regulation to send Game 4 of the Western Hockey League playoff series into overtime on Wednesday night, the Chiefs accepted their reality and proceeded.
“We had every reason after the third period to feel sorry for ourselves,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “But that’s not what I saw in the locker room.”
What he saw was the desperation to win – and that translated onto the ice as Mitch Holmberg scored 6 minutes, 43 seconds into the extra period and Spokane beat Vancouver 3-2 in front of 4,468 fans at the Arena.
The series shifts back to Vancouver for Game 5 on Friday night, with Game 6 slated for Sunday night in Spokane.
“(Tonight) was about the will and the determination to tie up the series,” Nachbaur said. “We caught a break … that’s the playoffs. We got it on the net and we got what we wanted – the two (wins) at home. Now we’ve got to take that momentum up to Vancouver.
“It’s a whole different series. The first two games I thought we were like a deer in headlights. We had too many guys standing around watching (Vancouver) play and maybe intimidated by the environment. But we know we can play with them now.”
They showed they can play with the Giants on Tuesday night, and the Chiefs showed it again on Wednesday – again taking an early lead.
Kramer scored 8:26 into the first period on a feed from Mike Aviani, and rookie Liam Stewart scored his first career WHL playoff goal 9:33 into the second as Spokane took a 2-0 lead.
Things continued to go well for Spokane until midway through the third period.
Vancouver’s Austin Fyten scored at 9:21 to ruin Chiefs goalie Eric Williams’ shutout opportunity and bring the Giants within one goal – but Spokane held onto its lead and it looked as if the Chiefs were going to win in regulation.
That’s when Gallagher struck.
“It was hard to see that one go in,” Holmberg said.
Instead of giving up on the game, though, the Chiefs came out with a desperation to win in overtime.
Kramer set the winning play in motion by digging the puck out of the corner and sending a quick feed to Holmberg in the slot. Holmberg heard defenseman Reid Gow calling for the puck, but decided to take a shot on Vancouver goalie Adam Morrison in an attempt to create a rebound.
Instead, he found to back of the net.
“It turned out for the best, actually,” Holmberg said. “It was a nice way to finish it off at the end.”
“We feel good about ourselves,” Nachbaur said. “We’ve done a lot of groundwork in this series. Yeah, we didn’t play well in the first two games, but I think we implemented some things that are starting to show up in our game and I think the other team knows that.”
“It was a game of ups and downs,” Kramer said. “They created some momentum of their own, but I thought we responded well. They were on a high, and we were on a big of a low headed into overtime, but one of the things we’ve stressed is never get too high and never get too low. We tried to keep our game simple and it worked for us.”