In a raucous atmosphere and a back-and-forth game, the little mistakes are costly.
The Tri-City Americans gave Spokane’s Kailer Yamamoto a little too much room in overtime and the Spokane native made them pay just 47 seconds into the extra frame, bringing 10,397 fans to their feet and giving the Chiefs a 5-4 Western Hockey League win Saturday night at the Arena.
It was Yamamoto’s fifth goal of the season. He added two assists for a three-point night, continuing his hot streak.
Spokane coach Dan Lambert was pleased with the two points but credited the Americans for playing hard and erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period. Tri-City is without stars Juuso Valimaki and Michael Rasmussen and played last night in Kennewick.
“I thought for a team that’s played a lot of hockey and being shorthanded, they sure battled and played hard,” Lambert said.
Third-period goals by Sasha Mutala and Mitchell Brown erased a two-goal deficit and tied the game at 4.
The Chiefs’ Luke Toporowski scored at 10:43 of the third to give Spokane a seemingly comfortable 4-2 lead.
But the Americans weren’t going away easily.
“We needed to stick with it and play the right way in overtime,” Lambert said.
The Chiefs did, and Yamamoto’s goal prevented what could have been a crushing defeat.
The Chiefs got goals from Ethan McIndoe and Jake McGrew in the first period to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission. Zach Fischer scored his 20th of the season at 4:32 of the second to give Spokane a commanding 3-0 lead.
But the Americans found a new gear and quickly tilted the ice. Jake Bean scored a power-play goal at 9:17 of the second period and Isaac Johnson scored at 11 minutes of the second to cut Spokane’s lead to 3-2.
That was the score in the third when Toporowski scored his third of the season.
“It was a 2-on-1 with me and Milos (Fafrak),” Toporowski said. “I wanted the puck in the middle. I got the puck on my backhand and turned to my forehand and just fired it on goal.”
Toporowski had an eventful night and even got into his first career fight when he and Connor Bouchard dropped the mitts – something his dad Kerry did plenty of times in a Chiefs sweater in the early ’90s.
“They put the puck in deep and I gave Bouchard a little hit and he just said, ‘Let’s go,’ and I just dropped my gloves and we just went at it,” he said, adding that it was his first fight, despite his surname.
Toporowski has seen the ice much more lately. Part of that is because Eli Zummack is out with an injury, and part of it is simply that he is becoming more comfortable in the league.
“He’s ate up minutes and he’s done a good job of it,” Lambert said. “I think young players often, 16-year-olds, their second half is typically much better than the first half. The first half at times is just learning how to play the game and learning how to work hard and practice and learning how to push.”
Bailey Brkin got the start in net again for Spokane and turned aside 31 shots. Tri-City started Beck Warm but pulled him after the first period and replaced him with Patrick Dea. Warm made 12 saves and Dea stopped 27.
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