He was as cool as the ice he skated on, but before he took off on his penalty shot, Greg Leeb understood fully the odds against him and what was on the line in the Spokane Chiefs’ 5-2 win over the Tri-City Americans.
His shot would come against one of junior hockey’s top goaltenders, Brian Boucher. Miss and the momentum would shift to the Ams, who had rallied from a two-goal deficit to trail 2-1 early in the third period.
Convert the opportunity - the Chiefs’ first penalty shot of the year - and order would be restored in the WHL West Division game in front of 5,237 at Tri-City Coliseum. Leeb had the shot after he was hauled down in front of the net by Tri-City’s Dylan Gyori with 15:27 to go. The penalty shot pits shooter against goaltender with everybody else reduced to witnesses.
If the pressure was on, you couldn’t tell by the way Leeb skated in from center ice, went to the forehand and put it over Boucher’s blocker.
“I was waiting to see what he did,” Leeb said. “I guess he has a tendency to stack the pads that’s what I was told. I was aware of that, made a move and just got it over his pad.”
Rested and close to healthy after nearly a week off, the Chiefs snapped a scoreless tie and a two-game losing streak, starting with Joel Boschman’s wrist shot - a snapper from just off the wall outside the faceoff circle 4:31 into the second period.
Chad Reich’s power-play goal put the Chiefs up 2-0 but Jody Lapeyre pulled the Ams to within a goal at 3:25 of the third.
Sixty-eight seconds later, Leeb was lining up for the penalty shot.
Joe Cardarelli also scored for the Chiefs who played hard, smart and skillfully to climb back over the .500 mark at 26-25-4.
The Chiefs denied Bob Loucks his 100th win as Tri-City coach.
Going end to end, throwing hits and wearing down the Americans in a dominating second period, the Chiefs were a different club than the one that Sunday finished a stretch of four games in five nights by losing by a goal at home to the Prince George Cougars.
Healthier with the return of forwards Derek Schutz and Mike Haley, the Chiefs penalty killers stuffed all five Tri-City power plays while their own power-play clicked. Spokane scored twice with the man advantage.
The Chiefs’ fifth goal came inside the final minute when Hugh Hamilton’s backhander from 90 feet out found the back of an empty net. Boucher had been pulled by then for the extra attacker.
The Chiefs are in Seattle Wednesday night. They next play at home on Friday night for their final regular-season meeting with the Portland Winter Hawks and the Chiefs’ first of five straight at home.
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