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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Chiefs dump Americans

Steve Christilaw Correspondent

It only stands to reason: if the Spokane Chiefs plan to finish ahead of the Tri-City Americans in the Western Hockey League’s U.S. Division standings, the Chiefs must beat the Americans.

Saturday night at the Spokane Arena, the Chiefs did just that, scoring three goals in the final 20:04 to earn a 4-2 victory in front of 9,525 witnesses.

Jeff Lynch scored a pair of goals to give his teammates a 2-1 lead and Ned Lukacevic matched his effort in the third period to cement the victory.

A night after being blanked on their home ice by the Portland Winter Hawks, 4-0, to fall out of a tie with Tri-City for fourth place in the U.S. Division, Spokane beat the Americans for the sixth time in 11 meetings to re-knot the race for the final playoff spot.

Desperate times, Spokane coach Al Conroy suggested, call for desperate efforts.

“No doubt about it,” he said. “If we want to keep up with Tri-City and move ahead of them to make the playoffs, we’re going to have to play desperate hockey.”

Spokane showed its desperation early, starting the game with a burst of adrenalin that produced Lynch’s first goal three minutes into the game, but also produced three Tri-City power-play opportunities in the first 12 minutes.

“We kind of had to get through that first period,” Conroy said. “We ended up taking some penalties we don’t ordinarily take and we don’t like to take. Once we got through the first period we settled down and skated pretty well.”

Tri-City evened the score on Logan Stephenson’s one-timer on a long rebound at 13:47.

Lynch tallied his second goal of the night with four seconds left in the second period to make it 2-1.

From there, it was Lukecevic, who had not scored since January 29th against Kamloops.

The left-winger scored at 11:17 to give the Chiefs a two-goal advantage. After the Americans cut that lead back to a single goal at 15:11 on Dylan Stanley’s goal, Lukacevic answered one more time, taking a sweet lead pass from Chris Bruton and poking the puck between Tri-City goalkeeper Carey Price’s pads.

“Chris was going to dump it in to make the smart play and it hit one of their guys and luckily bounced into the slot to me,” Lukacevic said. “I saw the five hole (between Price’s legs) open and shot the puck, but it started with a good, heads-up play by him.”

With 11 games left, the Chiefs are in a dog-fight for the playoffs and face the prospect of playing the remainder of their schedule against teams with better records.

Efforts like Friday night’s against Portland, resulting in a 4-0 loss, cannot be repeated, Conroy said.

“We talked about that before the game, about how it has to become a personal thing from now on,” he said. “It has to be a matter of personal pride to go out and play hard every night, not so much about going out and playing hard because it’s Tri-City.”

“It’s that time of year where a playoff position is on the line and we want to move on,” Lukacevic said. “We’re preparing our selves first and foremost for the playoffs, but our first goal is to get there because we know what we can do and what our capabilities are.”

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