In an absolutely thrilling made-in-Hollywood ending, the Spokane Chiefs completed three comebacks and somehow willed themselves to a 5-4 win Saturday night over the Portland Winterhawks at the Arena.
Team captain Jason Fram tied the game with 7 seconds left in regulation to put the game into overtime. Kailer Yamamoto then scored his second goal of the game in overtime to snap a four-game losing streak for the Chiefs (17-13-3-1) before the Christmas break.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said. “They dug in and found a way to win a hockey game. It was great to see our captain tie it.”
Fram didn’t even see the shot of the night go into the net.
“I remember just before the puck dropped thinking, ‘I’ve got to get the puck and get it through,’ ” Fram said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling when you trying to tie it.”
Fram slammed the puck at the goal “and then I just saw the reaction. It was all emotion from there,” he said.
The Chiefs survived a hat trick from Portland’s Rihards Bukarts only after Yamamoto scored in the extra period.
On the play, Markson Bechtold made a move and Fram switched with Yamamoto, but both defenders went with Fram.
“I took the shot and luckily it went in,” said Yamamoto, who raced over and slammed a fist into the glass to celebrate. “The boys have been working their tails off trying to get a win. This definitely is a confidence booster going into the Christmas break.”
The Chiefs came out of the gates with energy, but they quickly got a double helping of Bukarts, who got the puck after a Chiefs turnover and broke away toward goalie Tyson Verhelst. Bukarts got the puck to go at the 4:52 mark of the first period to make it 1-0 Winterhawks.
Less than two minutes after his first goal, Bukarts was camping out in front of the Spokane net. He got a pass from Dominic Turgeon and slammed the puck past Verhelst and the power-play goal made it 2-0 Portland.
That shot took the juice out of the crowd and the Chiefs.
Spokane’s fortunes reversed only 36 seconds into the second period when Yamamoto got the rebound off of a Bechtold shot and flipped the puck past Portland goalie Michael Bullion to make the score 2-1. An assist was also awarded on the play to Fram.
Following three straight shots failed to score later in the second period, Spokane’s Tyson Helgensen slapped the puck off the back of Bullion and into the net at the 16:21 mark to tie the game. Assists were awarded to Yamamoto and Riley Whittingham.
The third period added even more drama. Only four minutes in, a Chiefs player failed to secure the puck. Bukarts passed it to Cody Glass, who then found Evan Weinger for a goal to make it 3-2.
A few minutes later, Bechtold came free and rifled a shot that got past Bullion to tie the game.
At the 13:48 mark, Bukarts got a deflection from another shot and put it into the net for his hat trick and a 4-3 Portland lead.
It stayed that way until Fram’s heroics. The Chiefs now go on break and return on Dec. 27 to play Tri-City.
“It was huge,” Fram said of the win. “We had lost four in a row. Mentally and emotionally, it was nice to break that streak before a couple days off.”