The Spokane Chiefs had more effort swings than a beginning golfer Saturday night as they twice lost leads in a disappointing 4-3 loss to the rival Tri-City Americans at the Arena.
The Chiefs (16-12-2-1) came out sharp and took the early lead, only to lose it in the second period. Spokane came out swinging in the third period and regained a 3-2 lead before fading in the final minutes and allowing two late goals to lose it.
“They deserved to win,” coach Don Nachbaur said of the Americans. “To score, you’ve got to play the game quick. We tried to slow it down and be cute. We got what we deserved.”
The Chiefs’ Riley Whittingham got the 9,035 fans roaring early when he stole a puck near the Tri-City net and slammed it home less than three minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead. It produced a cascade of stuffed animals on Teddy Bear Toss night that took several minutes to clean up.
“I saw it in front of the net. I’m not sure how but I’m happy it went in,” Whittingham said. “But there are no excuses.”
The Americans went seven-and-a-half minutes before recording a shot on goal. And Spokane goalie Tyson Verhelst was up to the challenge, although he only had to save three shots the opening period.
Later in the period, the Chiefs again regressed into pour passing and puck handling that allowed several unforced turnovers to Tri-City. But the Americans (12-18-1-0) failed time and again to get through Spokane’s defense.
The Chiefs held a 10-3 advantage in shots on goal by the end of the first period.
The second period brought a bit of everything. After Spokane failed to generate much on its power play, Tri-City showed the Chiefs how to score.
Just after half way through the period, Vladislav Lukin slammed the puck at Verhelst, who got a piece of it but the puck made it into the net to tie the game at 1-1.
The Chiefs then appeared to lose either focus or became fatigued, leading to Tri-City camping out on Spokane’s side of the ice. Verhelst made save after save but the puck kept getting free in front of the net.
Then as time wound down, Tri-City actually pulled goalie Evan Sarthou for a bit before Spokane was called for a double penalty and faced a five-on-three.
After Jason Fram re-entered the game and with time winding down, Tri-City’s Parker Bowles broke free and got his shot to go in nine seconds before the break. The power-play goal gave the Americans a 2-1 lead.
Spokane opened the third period holding a 20-12 advantage in shots on goal. Early in the period, Markson Bechtold found a streaking Kailer Yamamoto, who scored to tie the game at 2.
Just a couple minutes later, Jordan Henderson sent a long-distance shot at Tri-City goalie Evan Sarthou. Keanu Yamamoto then deflected the puck into the net to give Spokane a 3-2 lead with about 5 1/2 minutes to play.
Keanu Yamamoto said he was tied up with Tri-City’s Brandon Carlo in front of the net when he saw Henderson shoot.
“I stuck my stick out and felt it hit,” Yamamoto said. “It was a bit lucky, but I’ll take it.”
However, Spokane gave up late goals to Beau McCue and Bowles again for the final 4-3 deficit.
“We were a bit too fancy at times,” Yamamoto said. “You’ve got to go fast and not slow down. This was a tough one. “
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