Halfway through their 12-game season series, the Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans logged perhaps the best entry so far on Saturday night.
In the fifth round of the shootout, Sasha Mutala beat Chiefs goalie Reece Klassen and scored the winner to earn the Americans a 2-1 victory at the Arena.
The outcome pulled Tri-City (23-16-2-1) within four points of Spokane (24-14-2-3), which sits in third place in the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League.
Spokane dominated possession and had the better scoring chances for most of the game but repeatedly missed the final step: a shot just wide, deflected high, off a post or just not connected on at all.
“You hit posts sometimes. Sometimes pucks don’t bounce your way. It’s just how it goes,” said Chiefs forward Jake McGrew, who had his share of near misses. “Our team played a full 60 minutes tonight. Everyone played hard.”
Both teams played the second half of the game short one skater after Tri-City defenseman Aaron Hyman rode Spokane rookie forward Cordel Larson into the boards. Larson stayed on the ice for about 7 minutes as medical officials checked him and transferred him to a stretcher.
Hyman received a 5-minute major and a game misconduct for the hit.
After the game, the Chiefs reported that Larson was in stable condition and had full use of his extremities. His overall injury status remains to be determined.
That penalty – along with three others – kept the Chiefs on the power play for much of the second period. But unlike the previous night when they scored all three times they had the extra skater, the Chiefs were shut out on the power play, going 0 for 6.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan got the Chiefs on the board first. Shortly after a penalty kill, the Chiefs’ captain found some space in the middle of the ice and got just ahead of the Americans’ defense. He zipped a wrister into the net, over Beck Warm’s glove, 5 minutes into the third period.
Warm would only be beaten once more – again by Anderson-Dolan during the shootout.
“Their goalie stood on his head,” Chiefs coach Dan Lambert said of Warm. “He was very, very good.”
But 94 seconds after the Chiefs took the lead, they went back on the penalty kill. That allowed the Americans to tie it up when a puck bounced off the boards behind Klassen, right to the stick of Parker AuCoin. He fired the puck into the net for a 1-all tie.
Klassen, making his second start with the Chiefs, finished with 32 saves.
The Chiefs and Americans will play six more times this season, starting with next Saturday’s contest at Tri-City. The Americans have won four of the six matchups this year.
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