KENNEWICK – One thing is certain, the Tri-City Americans got back into their Western Hockey League playoff series by defeating the Spokane Chiefs 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday night.
Not so certain was who scored the OT winner at 10 minutes, 46 seconds.
Parker Bowles received credit for the goal, although many media members thought it was Connor Rankin.
Rankin also thought it could have been him who scored during postgame interviews, but as of deadline the crucial goal was still in Bowles’ column.
Either way, the Americans cut the Chiefs’ lead to the 2-1 in the best-of-seven, first-round series. The Americans assured themselves of two more home games, Thursday and Saturday nights. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, would be in Spokane.
Americans goaltender Luke Lee-Knight, a former Chief, shook off a poor start and held Spokane scoreless for the final 44 minutes. The Americans had started Troy Trombley in the first two games.
“One hundered percent we changed our game,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We had individuals that wanted to change the flow of the game.
“One thing we’ve had success with is putting the puck on the net and we went back to being fancy and it cost us the hockey game.”
The Chiefs dominated the first 30 minutes in building a 4-1 lead.
Spokane led 3-1 after the first period, energized by shorthanded goals by Mike Aviani at 3:56 for a 1-0 lead and Blake Gal at 17:27 for a 3-0 edge.
Unlike the Americans, who gave up the two goals during power plays, the Chiefs used the extra man to their advantage when Mitch Holmberg scored at 12:55 to break a 1-all tie. The goal came seconds after Tri-City killed off a 5-on-3 Chiefs advantage.
Tri-City’s goal during the period came from Bowles at 7:11.
Spokane killed off 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 Americans power plays to end the first period.
The Chiefs appeared to be in control when Liam Stewart scored at 6:34 of the second period for a 4-1 lead, but the Americans caught fire.
Marcus Messier and Justin Feser scored 1:22 apart to cut the Chiefs’ edge to 4-3. The Americans got the equalizer from Drydn Dow on a power play at 18:06, 17 seconds after a holding penalty on Jackson Playfair.
“To be honest with you, we didn’t play the right way,” Nachbaur said. “By that I mean we didn’t compete in the middle part of the second period and they got right back in the game. They swayed the momentum.
The Chiefs outshot Tri-City 12-5 during the scoreless third period.
Lee-Knight stopped Alessio Bertaggia’s breakaway 7:45 into OT and turned back a good attempt by Todd Fiddler 2 minutes later.
Twelve of the last 24 Chiefs-Americans playoff games have gone to OT.
Tri-City had closed the regular season with five consecutive losses while Spokane had won 10 of 12. Defenseman Mitch Topping, who missed the Americans’ last seven games, all losses, returned on Tuesday.
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