The Spokane Chiefs were playing without three top players and had to endure overtime for the second straight night against the Kootenay Ice.
But unlike Friday night, it was the Chiefs prevailing thanks to a Keanu Yamamoto goal with 3 seconds left. The result was a 4-3 victory and two important points in the U.S. Division standings.
Yamamoto took a no-look pass from Hudson Elynuik, deked the goalie and put a backhand in the net before being mobbed in the corner by his teammates.
“We were just circling the zone for a while and then ‘Elly’ made an unbelievable pass to me and I was just lucky that I got around the goalie and it was a wide open net,” Yamamoto said of his winner. “It wasn’t too hard on my part. It was a good pass by (Elynuik).”
The win came on the heels of a shootout loss the night before on Kootenay’s ice. In that game, the Chiefs gave up the tying goal with 3 seconds remaining in regulation.
The win Saturday night was a solid response, especially with the team’s missing pieces.
“We’re finding ways to win,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said. “We’re scratching and clawing and finding ways to get points. We’ve got so many guys out of the lineup right now.
The Chiefs were without forwards Wyatt Johnson and Kailer Yamamoto – both out with upper-body injuries – as well as defenseman and captain Jason Fram. The injuries to Johnson and the younger Yamamoto have forced the Chiefs to insert defensemen in the forward position in recent games. Last night, it was Jeff Faith’s turn, as he skated on the wing.
“These are high-end guys and it’s affected what we do,” Nachbaur said.
Despite missing key players, the top line of Dominic Zwerger, Elynuik and Keanu Yamamoto stepped up.
The line accounted for three goals and four assists.
After a scoreless first period, Kootenay broke the stalemate when Tanner Lishchynsky put home a power-play goal.
The Chiefs’ Curtis Miske tied it up when he found himself in a 2-on-1 and snapped a shot past Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin.
Elynuik gave the Chiefs their first lead when he sent a wrist shot past Hoflin during a delayed penalty call.
But just as the second period was about the end, Kootenay’s Vince Loschiavo tied it up.
The Chiefs broke the tie a little more than nine minutes into the third period when Keanu Yamamoto took a cross-ice pass from Elynuik and put his team up by a goal. The goal seemed to energize the Chiefs for a handful of shifts until Cale Fleury tied it at 3 a little more than three minutes later.
Fleury’s goal was the last in regulation before Keanu Yamamoto’s heroics in overtime.
Hoflin turned away 35 of the Chiefs’ 39 shots in a losing effort. The Chiefs started backup goaltender Lasse Petersen, who made 20 saves.
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