The games this time of year get more important each day. The Spokane Chiefs are in a battle for playoff positioning in the Western Hockey League’s U.S. Division—a division that should get all five teams in the playoffs.
So their 5-1 win over the Tri-City Americans Saturday not only kept the Chiefs in third place, it prevented Tri-City from gaining ground.
The Chiefs used five goal scorers to dominate the Americans. The Chiefs also outshot Tri-City 32-19.
None of the goals came from the team’s stars, like Kailer Yamamoto, Jaret Anderson-Dolan or Hudson Elynuik, to name a few.
But they did come from players who deserved to shine.
“A lot of times when you don’t show up on the score sheet you still do a lot of good things,” coach Dan Lambert said. “Tonight some of the guys that maybe don’t show up as often were rewarded. The guys that have been showing up also had strong games. I thought it was a good team effort.”
Only two players—Jake McGrew and Riley Woods—had multi-point games, which speaks to the depth Spokane has developed this season.
The Chiefs and Americans got out to a breathless pace to start the game. Spokane got two goals just 20 seconds apart to take an early 2-0 lead. Ethan McIndoe got the scoring started on the power play at 3:54, and Ty Smith took a beautiful cross-ice pass from Woods to make it 2-0.
But only 30 seconds after the Chiefs hot start, Maxwell James scored for Tri-City on the rush to cut Spokane’s lead in half.
“I think it’s what every team wants, to start the game off,” Woods said. “Our message going in was if we got up three goals we had to keep competing, and that’s what we did.”
Luke Toporowski scored his eighth of the season fresh off the bench. He picked up a loose puck at the top of the circle and drilled it past Tri-City goaltender Patrick Dea.
Jake McGrew then tipped in a pass from Woods at 17:05 of the second for his 15th goal of the season. Defenseman Dalton Hamaliuk scored his second of the season at 7:06 of the third period to provide insurance.
Woods’ two assists were both pretty plays, and while he didn’t score any goals—he did hit a crossbar—he made plays all night.
“From our line, we had a lot of chemistry tonight,” he said.
Woods played with Hudson Elynuik and McGrew, who is filling in for the injured Zach Fischer.
“That line did a lot of great things with the puck,” Lambert said. “They were hunting pucks and moving their feet in the offensive zone. When they do that, they’re a hard line to contain.”
Dawson Weatherill made 18 saves. Since returning from injury, on Jan. 23, Weatherill is 8-0-2, providing a nice backstop at an important time in the season.
The win keeps Spokane in third place in the U.S. Division, three points up on Tri-City and two points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds. But Lambert said he isn’t concerned with the teams around Spokane in the standings.
“We want to take care of business ourselves,” he said. “We don’t want to have to rely on other teams. The only way to do that is to win your games. If you do that, you don’t need to worry about anybody else.”
The Chiefs hit the road for a game at the Seattle Thunderbirds Sunday afternoon in Kent, Wash.