The Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans skated at a fast, sometimes erratic pace during the course of Saturday’s game in front of 8,010 at the Arena.
But it was Jake McGrew who put a stamp on the game and caused the crowd to erupt when he broke a 1-all tie with 3 seconds left.
McGrew skated into the Tri-City zone with time winding down and called for the puck. Eli Zummack obliged and fed McGrew, who sniped a laser past Tri-City goaltender Beck Warm to give the Chiefs a 2-1 victory.
It was the first win for Spokane over Tri-City this season in three tries. The teams will meet nine more times this season.
The Chiefs’ performance was dramatically different than Friday’s loss to Everett, when Spokane played most of the game in its zone and barely threatened.
“I thought our compete level was much better and much greater against a very physical, hard-hitting team,” Chiefs coach Dan Lambert said. “I thought we responded well to not being very happy with Friday’s effort, especially in the third period. So those are positives.”
The Chiefs outshot the Americans 35-19 and were 1 for 4 on the power play.
McGrew’s winner was his 12th goal of the season.
“It was just a good play,” McGrew said. “The puck went down low and (Zummack) won his battle. I was screaming for it and I don’t know if he heard me because of the crowd, but he got it to me and I just tried to get it on net and it happened to go in.”
McGrew’s goal impressed his coach as well, who was happy to see the Chiefs’ system lead to the winner.
“We got in on the forecheck and we finished a check, got puck possession by Zummack and he made a nice pass to McGrew,” Lambert said. “McGrew has one of the best releases, one of the best shots in the league, and he was able to hit his spot.”
McGrew said the physical nature of the game meant players’ effort late was crucial.
As both teams shortened their bench looking to avoid overtime, some players – like McGrew – had less time to catch their breath.
“It’s a high-paced game, but the guys who were out there were out there consecutive times,” he said. “I was probably gassed, but I don’t think I was tired. It was just the adrenaline that kept me going.”
The 19-year-old also added an assist on a Luke Toporowski power-play goal in the second period. An Adam Beckman shot from the point deflected off McGrew and right to Toporowski, who batted it in.
Tri-City’s lone goal came at 15:33 of the first when Dom Schmiemann got one past Bailey Brkin from the point. Brkin stopped the other 18 shots Tri-City sent his way.
Tri-City’s Nolan Yaremko thought he scored in the latter half of the third period, but officials immediately waved it off and ruled he had incidental contact with Brkin.
The Americans didn’t get another scoring chance.
The Chiefs shuffled their forward lines, adding McGrew to the top line with Ethan McIndoe and Riley Woods, among other changes. Lambert said that was a result of Friday’s performance against Everett.
“I felt like we’ve had a few players who haven’t been doing what we need them to do and I thought a shakeup would help,” he said. “We got a better effort from everyone.”
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