In their first game back from the Christmas break, there were ample opportunities for the Spokane Chiefs to mail it in against the Seattle Thunderbirds on Wednesday.
When they were down 3-1 heading into the final period, perhaps. Or when Seattle’s Dillon Hamaliuk scored from a tough angle to give Seattle a 4-3 lead after Spokane came back to tie it.
But the Chiefs didn’t wilt – they kept fighting back and Zach Fischer’s overtime winner gave Spokane the 5-4 victory.
“In the dressing room we just said, ‘Believe,’ ” Fischer said of his team’s mindset in the second intermission. “That’s all we said. We knew what we had to do. We went out there and had puck possession most of the period and got shots on net with traffic. We worked (Seattle) down low and wore their (defensemen) out.”
The Chiefs got a big power-play goal from Hudson Elynuik at 6:28 of the third period to start the comeback. Jaret Anderson-Dolan tied it at 3 at 11:02 of the third.
That’s when Seattle’s Hamaliuk – the brother to Spokane’s Dalton – scored on a tough angle, a goal Chiefs goaltender Donovan Buskey surely wants back.
But Fischer’s line with Elynuik and Riley Woods came up big, as they have a number of times this season. Elynuik sent a pass from behind the net to Woods in front, who put it home to tie the game again at 4 at 16:12 of the third.
“It was a huge goal,” Chiefs head coach Dan Lambert said. “At the end of the day, it was a gutsy win for us. We could have easily packed it in, but we didn’t. We stuck with it and that’s what this team is capable of.”
The Fischer-Elynuik-Woods line has developed a ton of chemistry this season and it is counted on to score those big goals. The line makes up three of the team’s top five scorers.
“(Riley) is a big part of that line,” Lambert said. “He’s a quick little player. When he’s moving and the way they cycle the puck, he’s able to establish some time and space for himself and for that line because of his ability to change directions quickly. When he’s doing that, he’s very effective. I thought that line did a great job of that throughout he night.”
Fischer finished with two goals and an assist, while Elynuik had one of each. Woods had the one goal.
“We move our feet, get the pucks in deep and talk,” Fischer said of his line’s success. “We try to build the chemistry and we try to know where each other are.”
The game started a bit clunky. The first period featured nine penalties and each team had three power plays. The Thunderbirds capitalized on one of theirs when Nolan Volcan put in a rebound on an Austin Strand shot from the point. Spokane couldn’t connect on any of its three first-period power plays.
All of those penalties forced both teams to mix lines, making it difficult to get into any rhythm.
Fischer redirected an Anderson-Dolan shot at 6:16 of the second period to tie the game. The Chiefs were buzzing in the first half of the second period and created a number of scoring chances. But after the midperiod timeout, it was all Seattle.
Matthew Wedman put home a nice pass from Blake Bargar to give the T-Birds a 2-1 lead at 14:14 of the second period. Reece Harsch extended Seattle’s lead three minutes later when he scored from the point on the power play.
But after the second period, the game changed thanks to Spokane’s belief in itself.
The Chiefs outshot the T-Birds 42-29, including 14-4 in the third period and 5-0 in overtime.
The teams meet again Friday in Kent, Washington.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.