The Spokane Chiefs didn’t arrive home from Friday’s 2-1 win in Vancouver until 6 a.m. Saturday.
That didn’t leave a lot of time to prepare for Saturday night’s Teddy Bear Toss game against the Tri-City Americans and the sold-out crowd of 10,422 awaiting one of the most anticipated games of the season.
But you wouldn’t know the team was a little sleep-deprived after putting 50 shots on net and gutting out a 4-3 Western Hockey League win.
Adam Beckman and Cordel Larson each finished with a goal and an assist and goaltender Lukas Parik stopped 20 shots in the win. Tri-City’s Beck Warm was under duress all night and stopped 46 of Spokane’s 50 shots.
“I’m so happy, especially with the travel we had (Friday) night,” Chiefs head coach Manny Viveiros said. “It’s such a wear and tear on the body and our kids gutted through. We played three games this week and Tri-City didn’t play one game. It was tough travel and I’m really happy we stuck with it. You could see us start to run out of gas at times, but we stuck with our structure.”
Beckman sent the teddy bears flying just 41 seconds into the game when he beat Warm over the shoulder. It was Beckman’s team-leading 14th goal of the season.
“They ripped the puck around and we kind of had a textbook forecheck and their D-man came down and pinched,” Beckman said. “The puck kind of popped out to me and I just tried to rip it into the net.”
Beckman and Viveiros agreed that getting the teddy bear goal earlier in the game is better.
“It gets the crowd into it and if you go on long, you start pressing a little bit more,” Viveiros said.
The delay for teddy bear clean-up didn’t seem to faze the Chiefs as Larson quickly rang a shot off the crossbar seconds after play resumed. The Chiefs had a number of scoring opportunities, but Warm stood tall in net.
Tri-City tied it with 1:42 left in the first when Nick Bowman tipped in a shot. The Americans scored 2:45 into the second to take a 2-1 lead. Booker Daniel took advantage of a loose puck to snipe one past Parik.
Larson tied the game when he corralled a rebound and slid the puck past Warm at 12:17 of the second. But almost 7 minutes later, Luke Zazula was left alone in the circle and gave Tri-City a 3-2 lead heading into the third.
The Chiefs not only peppered the Tri-City net, they limited the Americans’ scoring chances. It seemed like it all finally paid off when Eli Zummack tied the game at 2:48 into the third with his 10th goal of the season.
Luke Toporowski got the winner at 8:18, just seconds after a Chiefs power play expired.
The Chiefs were mostly in control in the third period until Noah King took an interference penalty with 3:01 remaining. The Americans held possession and pulled Warm, giving them six skaters. The Chiefs’ penalty-kill unit and Parik’s strong play in net kept the Americans scoreless.
“That was huge. It was such a big part of the game and we used the chance to win the hockey game,” Viveiros said.
The game was the Spokane debut for Leif Mattson, acquired earlier this week from the Kelowna Rockets. The 20-year-old had a hectic few days reporting to the team while the Chiefs were in Vancouver, and then traveled in the night to his new home. Mattson skated on a line with Michael King and Connor Gabruch and got some power-play time.
“He’s a very intelligent hockey player. You can tell that right away after two games,” Viveiros said. “He knows where to go and for a kid who just got to us, you can tell he knows how to play the game.”
This was the last game for Ty Smith and Parik for a while, as both players are headed to their respective World Junior camps. Smith will be with Team Canada, while Parik will look to earn a roster spot with the Czech Republic.
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