The Spokane Chiefs finally found a lead they could hold and the team broke a six-game losing streak Friday night with a 2-1 win over the Victoria Royals at the Arena.
To end the skid, the Chiefs (4-5-1-1) turned to the brothers Yamamoto. Keanu put the Chiefs on the board in the second period and younger brother, Kailer, scored the winner in the third.
“It was a great win,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said. “It was a tough game. We have been playing a lot of tough teams. It was good to see them battle at the end and keep it out of the net.”
Goaltender Tyson Verhelst was credited with 32 saves, but his effort showed much more in somehow stopping shot after shot from the Royals, who pulled their goalie at the end and finished the game on a power play.
After an even first period, things really heated up late in the second period. Earlier in the session, the Royals continually clamped their defense down every time the Chiefs got the puck anywhere near their net.
Then on a Royals power play, Kailer Yamamoto dashed forward and made a steal. He raced for the net and set up a teammate, but the shot didn’t go.
A couple of minutes later, Dominic Zwerger had a breakaway and his shot went wide. But the momentum had definitely shifted to the Chiefs.
Then at the 17:37 mark, Matt Sozanski fired a shot that was deflected into the net by a waiting Keanu Yamamoto to finally put a goal on the board. An assist was also awarded to Jake Toporowski.
“I had three guys in front of me,” Keanu Yamamoto said. “I don’t know how the puck made it through, but I kind of put my stick out and it went in. That’s pretty fun.”
But the Chiefs couldn’t hold their lead for long.
Less than two minutes later, Verhelst got out of position chasing the puck behind the net. The Royals’ Tyler Soy poked the puck out from Verhelst and it found Jared Dmytriw, who slammed it into the empty net to tie the game with 37 seconds left in the period.
“He made a mistake, but the whole team was making a lot of mistakes,” Nachbaur said of Verhelst. “At the end of the day, he recovered. He didn’t dwell on it, he regrouped and he played a great game.”
Then the 2:22 mark of the third period during a power play, Kailer Yamamoto broke free and got his shot to go to give the Chiefs the winning margin at 2-1.
“Luckily, I read the play and picked it off,” Yamamoto said. “I got a great screen from Riley Whittingham. It’s a huge win for the confidence of our team right now and in the future.”
The Chiefs turn around and play again tonight against Victoria (7-5-0-0) at the Arena.
Nachbaur said he didn’t need to give his team much of a pep talk after breaking the losing streak.
“We are not about winning or losing. We are about playing the game the right way,” Nachbaur said. “Hockey is pretty fair. If you play it the right way, you get good results. We did that tonight.”
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