Heading into Saturday night’s showdown with the Tri-City Americans, the Spokane Chiefs had lost three in a row and surrendered 14 goals in those three losses. The Chiefs needed some strong goaltending and a win to keep pace in the Western Hockey League’s U.S. Division.
Spokane indeed got spectacular goaltending, this time from Reece Klassen, and held Tri-City to 25 shots on net and a goose egg in the power-play column in a tight 2-1 win in front of 9,808 fans at the Arena.
With the win, the Chiefs are now tied with Tri-City for third place in the U.S. Division. The Chiefs have one game in hand.
“Every game is big now until the end of the regular season and even more so in the playoffs,” Chiefs coach Dan Lambert said. “I thought it was a huge win for us. We didn’t want to lose four in a row, either. It was good for us heading on the road now, where we haven’t had much success recently.”
The Chiefs, who have four games on the road between now and March 5, are just 10-13-2-2 away from the Arena.
Klassen, who was told he’d be starting after Spokane’s loss to Kelowna on Friday, came up big on all three Tri-City power plays and even stopped a 2-on-0 in the second period.
“We’ve been working on those a lot,” Klassen said of the 2-on-0. “It becomes second nature when you have a week of practice of odd man rushes.”
Klassen said the Chiefs even practice 3-on-0 rushes in practice.
“We don’t practice them for the goalies,” Lambert said with a laugh.
A night after giving up two costly power-play goals, the Chiefs’ penalty killers made it difficult for Tri-City to find any shooting lanes. Klassen was key as well.
“You have to focus on the first shot and just go from there,” he said. “You can’t focus on how good the other goalie is doing, and you just have to focus on yourself and keep going.”
The other goalie was Beck Warm, who stood tall in Tri-City’s net, stopping 28 shots.
But it was Klassen who stole the show.
“I thought Klassen came up big for us when we needed him to,” Lambert said. “I thought we did a good job overall, but goaltending is always a big factor when it comes to games like that.”
The teams played a rather uneventful first period, with the Chiefs not getting a real shot on net until the 10:41 mark.
The Chiefs picked up the pace in the second period and were rewarded with an Adam Beckman power-play goal at 9:19. Tri-City’s Nolan Yaremko tied it at 16:33.
Eli Zummack got the game-winning goal at 3:32 of the third when he made a nice move to get around Tri-City defenseman Samuel Stewart. It was Zummack’s 14th goal of the season and extended his point streak to 13 games.
Tri-City had a handful of chances in the waning moments, but Klassen and the Spokane defense were there to secure the lead.
Spokane now heads to Prince George for back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday. The Chiefs have road games against Portland on March 1 and Tri-City on March 2. The team doesn’t return to Spokane until March 5, when the Everett Silvertips come to town.
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