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Tri-City pounds Spokane Chiefs to open WHL season

KENNEWICK – The Spokane Chiefs opened the Western Hockey League season Saturday and crashed headfirst into scoring machines named Michael Rasmussen and Vladislav Lukin.

The two forwards powered the Tri-City Americans to an 8-3 win at Toyota Center.

The 6-foot-5 Rasmussen fleeced the Chiefs for a hat trick in the first period and scored four goals overall, while Lukin also pulled off a hat trick to guide the Americans.

“They were really good,” Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said of Rasmussen and Lukin. “Early in the game, we weren’t very good and it just snowballed on us.”

New Spokane goalie Jayden Sittler was on the receiving end for most if it, giving up seven goals in 28 shots. He took over this season for Tyson Verhelst, who quit the game after last season.

But Nachbaur didn’t put the loss at the feet of Sittler. He said his players started the contest chasing the puck, or letting the game to come to them, and never changed.

The Americans “gave us a lesson in competition,” he said. “It was an eye opener for a lot of your new guys about what the Western Hockey League is all about.”

The pain started just more than 2 minutes into the season. Tri-City’s Jusso Valimaki found Rasmussen, who powered the puck past Sittler to give the home crowd plenty to cheer about early with a power-play goal.

Eight minutes later, the puck came free in front of the Spokane net and Rasmussen was there to flick home his second power-play goal at the 10:39 mark.

The Americans’ Tyler Sandu found Rasmussen, who easily got the puck past Sittler at the 16:22 mark of the first-period to give him an opening-night hat trick.

The Chiefs had to stand and take it as the fans roared and the refs collected all the hats off the ice.

The Chiefs finally showed some spunk in the second period as Kailer Yamamoto streaked up the ice and Ondrej Najman found him open. Yamamoto went top shelf so hard his shot exploded the American goalie’s water bottle to finally put the Chiefs on the board at the 4:47 mark of the second period.

But less than 2 minutes later, Tri-City’s Lukin got a lucky rebound and punched the puck past Sittler to regain the three-goal lead at 4-1.

Another 2 minutes later, Yamamoto raced toward the Americans’ net. He passed the puck between his legs back to his older brother, Keanu Yamamoto, who slammed it home with 11:37 remaining in the period to make it 4-2 Americans.

At the 12:14 mark, the puck again came free for Tri-City’s Lukin. He powered it home past Sittler to make it 5-2.

After the Chiefs failed to get anything going during a power play, Jaret Anderson-Dolan took a pass from Keanu Yamamoto and got it past goalie Beck Warm to make it 5-3.

“We had some momentum there in the second period,” Nachbaur said. “Then we went right back to giving the puck away.”

With a minute left in the period, Rasmussen again got the puck in front of the net and he made the Chiefs pay with his fourth goal of the game to make it 6-3.

The Americans added a goals from Morgan Geeke, and Lukin completed the rout with his hat trick with 2:40 to play.

The Chiefs play in their home opener on Saturday against the Americans.

“We are a young team,” Nachbaur said. “We are going to have to go through those growing pains.”


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