During a game that both teams looked for two periods like they had forgotten how to play, the Spokane Chiefs got enough breaks Saturday night to finally put away the Tri-City Americans for a 6-4 win at the Arena.
After dropping a 6-5 game to the Americans on Friday night, the Chiefs (14-9-2-1) came out flat. Both teams suffered from poor puck possessions. It was as if the puck was a magical sphere and sticks and skates were powerless to control it.
“For me, we had no crispness to our game,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “And it’s not just the young players, it was our veteran players. We were just trying to do too much with the puck … and the turnovers killed us.”
The ugliness began before the game was even a minute old. A shot came bouncing off Chiefs’ goalie Tyson Verhelst and Parker Bowles was waiting for the Americans. Bowles slapped the puck into the net and Tri-City (10-16-1-0) took a 1-0 lead.
But about a minute later, Spokane equaled the score when Jaret Anderson-Dolan stole the puck and raced down the ice before squeezing the puck past Americans’ goalie Evan Sarthou. An assist was given on the play to Jake Toporowski.
Spokane outshot the Americans 17-7 in the first period, but the Chiefs struggled to maintain possession of the puck. However, Tri-City was even worse.
Then at the 16:08 mark of the first period during a Chiefs power play, Sarthou denied a Spokane shot but rookie Ethan McIndoe gathered the puck, turned and fired it into the net as the large crowd erupted.
“I’m gaining more confidence with every game,” McIndoe said. “Coach is putting me out there in key situations and I’m getting more opportunities. It’s great hearing the crowd roar. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
The power play goal gave the Chiefs a 2-1 lead, which they carried into the second period.
Some 28 seconds into the second period, McIndoe slapped a shot at Sarthou who blocked it. But the puck bounced out and Curtis Miske was there to smash it home for his sixth goal on the season to give the Chiefs a 3-1 lead.
Then at the 11-minute mark of the second period during a power play for the Americans, Parker Wotherspoon brought the puck up the ice and sent a lazy shot at the goal. Verhelst whiffed with the glove and just like that Tri-City got back into the game at 3-2.
The period ended with a lot of pushing and shoving and few passes actually finding teammates. But the Chiefs maintained a 24-18 advantage in shots on goal.
The third period brought crisper passing, but more drama for Spokane.
The Chiefs’ Adam Helewka came free in front of the Americans’ net. His shot was denied, but Dominic Zwerger was there to smash it home for his 10th goal on the season to make it 4-2 Chiefs.
Just over two minutes later, Zwerger found Kailer Yamamoto during a power play and Yamamoto found the net to give Spokane a 5-2 lead.
“The minute we got a three-goal cushion, we all got greedy,” Nachbaur said. “They were just trying to add to the score board rather than winning the game the right way.”
With 11:38 remaining, Tri-City’s Bowles found Jordan Topping, who slammed the puck into the net to make it 5-3 Spokane.
Less than two minutes later, the Americans’ Michael Rasmussen found a free puck in front of the Spokane net and made it a one-goal game at 5-4.
But the Chiefs’ defense stiffened and Zwerger raced forward and scored an empty-net goal with six seconds remaining to make it 6-4 in front of more than 7,500 fans.
“The home crowd is always a huge factor,” Zwerger said. “It’s always good when the team wins. But it’s huge to get a win against our rivals.”
The Chiefs return to the Arena today at 5:05 p.m. to play the Everett Silvertips.
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