The Spokane Chiefs are sure glad to have Markson Bechtold back.
Bechtold scored the game-winning goal with 1 minute, 8 seconds left in regulation in the Chiefs’ (12-11-5-1) 4-3 Western Hockey League win over the Kootenay Ice (6-18-7-1) on Friday at the Arena.
After squandering a two-goal lead, the Chiefs received a late spark from Bechtold, who recieved the puck from Keanu Yamamoto and put a backhand shot in the back of the net.
Bechtold, one of the Chiefs’ three overage players, has added maturity to Spokane’s forward line in his first two games back from injury, scoring a pair of goals on Wednesday and the game-winner on Friday.
“I had him playing on our third line (Wednesday) and I moved him up to playing on Elynuik’s line and he gave them a big boost,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “He’s playing like a man. We need that because we got a lot of little guys on our team and a lot of young guys that haven’t grown into being a man.”
The Chiefs have missed Bechtold’s maturity for most of the season. The 20-year-old forward sat out 19 of Spokane’s first 27 games with an upper-body injury.
With it being Bechtold’s last season with the Chiefs, watching from afar made him anxious at times, but ultimately he said he tried to stay patient and wait for his opportunity.
“It’s obviously frustrating starting your last year on the shelf a lot,” he said. “I know God has his plan for me set out and I’m just going to try and carry out whatever comes my way.”
Friday’s game was The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund’s teddy bear toss, where fans threw teddy bears on the ice after the Chiefs scored their first goal to be donated to the Christmas Bureau, which provides gifts, books and food vouchers to families in need.
The 8,322 attendance was a season high and 5,869 teddy bears were thrown on the ice to be donated.
The record number of fans almost witnessed the Chiefs waste a chance at earning two points.
Kailer Yamamoto, also in his second game back from an upper-body injury, looked like his old self for the first time since missing six games. The 18-year-old forward scored on a power play early in the second period and assisted on Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s one-timer from the slot on a centering pass from the right wing.
The Chiefs led 3-1 after Yamamoto’s second-period outburst.
But Spokane’s defense couldn’t make it stand up. Kootenay tied the game with two power-play goals.
Zak Zborosky’s wrist shot found twine midway through the second period and Vince Loschiavo tied the game on a tap-in goal after Dawson Weatherill lost sight of the puck near the goal line with 16:10 remaining in the third.
“Our penalty kill is continuing to be a concern,” Nachbaur said. “Clearing attempts really shot us in the foot. We should have had the puck down the ice twice on those goals and we didn’t.”
Keanu Yamamoto scored a breakaway goal 4:01 into the game, prompting the crowd to throw their teddy bears on the ice.
While not letting two points slip away against lowly Kootenay, the Chiefs – sitting at ninth in the Western Conference with 30 points, know accumulating wins in their upcoming four-day, three-game road trip will be key for the rest of their season.
“All these games leading up to Christmas are big,” Bechtold said. “You don’t want to be playing catch-up in the new year.”
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