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Aviani lifts Chiefs over T-C

You can always count on the Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans to butt heads.

Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 10,325 at the Arena was no different, as the Chiefs and Americans went to overtime for the third time in seven games this season.

For the second time this season, the OT turned into a shootout, but this time the Chiefs came out the winners. Mike Aviani got the winner during a 3-2 shootout that gave Spokane a 2-1 victory and snapped Tri-City’s four-game winning streak.

Mitch Holmberg and Hudson Elynuik also scored during the shootout for the Chiefs, and Eric Williams stopped Lucas Nickles’ final attempt to preserve the win.

“We had some great goals in the shootout,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “Elynuik with a great shot, Mitch with a great move and Mike with a great move. We needed that because we haven’t been great in shootouts this year (one previous win in three attempts). We beat a really good goalie in the shootout and we handled it the right way.”

T-C goalie Eric Comrie, third in the league in goals-against average (2.35) and second in save percentage (.930) stopped 35 of 36 Chiefs attempts during regulation and OT.

“Their goalie was outstanding,” Nachbaur said. “He was like a brick wall back there.”

The one that got by Comrie was on a 5-on-3 power play late in the first period when Americans left wing Jessey Astles picked up a 4-minute penalty for head butting at the same time Michal Plutnar was whistled for tripping.

“It was pretty clear when he threw the butt,” Nachbaur said. “I was right there and the refs saw it.”

Reid Gow scored on a wrister out front for his second goal of the season. Gow, Spokane’s captain, is known for assisting on goals as he has piled up 40 this season.

“They were cheating on Mitch, for sure, because I’m a passer to Mitch,” Gow said. “They were definitely looking for me to pass, for sure.”

The Chiefs held Tri-City to three shots in the second period and seven in the third. Williams was 5:48 away from his third shutout of the season when Brian Williams was able to sneak one past him from the side of the net, a shot that deflected off the Chiefs goalie.

Spokane finished 1 for 7 on the power play and is 2 for 30 in its last eight games.

“Our power play could have won us the game, but I think we’re really not sharp right now,” Nachbaur said. “We have to regroup in that area.”

The teams combined for just three shots during the OT.

Spokane (29-15-2-2, 62 points) improved to 5-1-0-1 against the Americans (24-21-2-3) this season. The teams will meet five more times.

Spokane begins a challenging road stretch Tuesday at Kamloops. The trip continues Wednesday at Kelowna, the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League, and Friday at defending WHL champion Portland before ending Saturday at Everett.