For a guy who had never scored a goal in the Western Hockey League before Saturday, Jaret Anderson-Dolan sure made people sit up and take notice.
Anderson-Dolan not only scored his first WHL goal, but he added two more for a hat trick while helping the Spokane Chiefs rally from a 4-2 deficit for a 6-4 win over the Tri-City Americans in a season opener at the Arena.
“I’m still trying to process what (Anderson-) Dolan did out there,” said Kailer Yamamoto, the Chiefs’ top returning goal scorer who finished with one goal and two assists. “I’d say he’s one of the best players in the league right now. … He’s going to be a dominant player the rest of the season.”
Anderson-Dolan, 16 years old, was Spokane’s first-round draft pick (14th overall) in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. He played five games with the Chiefs last season but didn’t score.
“I had a couple of games last year, but I think I have more experience this year,” Anderson-Dolan said. “But I don’t think I was expecting going in to get a hat trick.”
Anderson-Dolan tied the game at 4 early in the third period with his second goal of the night. After the Chiefs failed to break the tie during a long sequence with two power plays, Anderson-Dolan achieved the hat trick – and the winner – with a power-play goal with 5 minutes, 47 seconds left.
“It’s a great start to his career,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said of Anderson-Dolan. “We needed somebody to shoot the puck. He has a great shot and he used it tonight and he beat their goaltender. Hopefully, he continues to do that and hopefully the other guys on the team will watch him do that and try to emulate that and make some plays.”
Yamamoto added insurance on a breakaway with 4:28 left.
Spokane has won eight consecutive home openers against the Americans.
The Chiefs needed just 1:14 to register their first goal of the season. Officials determined that Hudson Elynuik notched the score, originally credited to Dominic Zwerger.
The Americans forged a tie and soon after took the lead later in the first. Taylor Vickerman scored at 12:48 and Jordan Topping followed at 14:33.
Spokane knotted the score at 2 early in the second period when Anderson-Dolan picked up his first WHL goal on a power play.
Tyler Sandhu scored goals 2½ minutes apart midway through the second for a 4-2 Americans lead. Sandhu’s second goal forced Nachbaur to replace goalie Garret Hughson with Tyson Verhelst.
“I think we put Hughey in a tough position to defend some tough pucks, some tough plays,” Nachbaur said. “But Tyson came off the bench and I thought we competed harder for him.”
The game turned testy when Jason Fram scored at 15:22 of the second on a 4-on-4 play to trim the Americans’ lead to 4-3. The celebration near Tri-City’s goal turned into fisticuffs that sent two players from each team to the box.
The Chiefs finished 6 for 6 on the penalty kill.
The announced attendance was 8,345.
The Chiefs won’t return home until Oct. 16 when Prince Albert visits the Arena.
Spokane’s next six games will be on the road, starting Friday against Kootenay in Cranbrook, British Columbia.