The Spokane Chiefs haven’t played particularly good hockey this season the night after playing a game, and they weren’t playing well for two periods Saturday in just that position.
But they found a rhythm in the third, and though Kootenay equalized with 8.6 second left in regulation, Eli Zummack finished off the Ice with a breakaway goal in overtime, giving the Chiefs a 4-3 victory.
Zummack collected a loose puck at the top of his zone, headed toward goalie Jesse Makaj and looked back once as he neared, looking for a teammate.
“Obviously, you want to shoot on a breakaway,” said Zummack, who added his 24th assist of the year. “But if there’s a 2-on-0 and it’s obvious, I think I’d wait for my teammates.”
But no players were near him, so Zummack deked twice and netted his ninth goal and third winner of the season.
It was a crucial one, too, because this felt like a game the Chiefs had to have against a Kootenay team that has lost 16 of its last 17, all but three in regulation.
The Chiefs fell behind 1-0 early, and the 9,807 fans had to wait until the second period to toss what ended up being 7,655 stuffed animals onto the Arena ice on Teddy Bear Toss night, when Bobby Russell scored his third goal of the season.
Kootenay (7-20-5-1) regained the lead 9 minutes later and carried a 2-1 advantage into the second intermission.
But coach Dan Lambert shuffled lines to start the third, and the Chiefs scored two quick goals – the first from Luc Smith, the second from Cordel Larson – to take a lead they held until the Ice scored with an extra skater late in the period.
“I didn’t think we were very good for 40 minutes,” Lambert said. “I thought in the third we had a nice push … but when you play three (games) in three (nights) sometimes the second is a tough one, and that was certainly the case tonight.”
The home crowd was the largest of the season for the Chiefs, who improved to 2-7-0-1 when trailing after two periods and 4-6-1-0 when they had played the night before.
The victory helped the Chiefs (16-10-2-2) keep pace in the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League.
They visit the division-leading Everett Silvertips (24-7-1-0) on Sunday for their fourth game in five days.
Dawson Weatherill made 25 saves, including three in overtime, improving to 5-6-1-1 on the season.
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