The course of a hockey game can change on a big goal or a big hit. But can it change on an assist?
If you’re the Spokane Chiefs, absolutely.
Sixteen-year-old Graham Sward sent a beautiful pass from his own goal line past the red line to Leif Mattson, and the veteran scored on a breakaway to tie the game in the second period. It was the boost the Chiefs needed as they went on to beat the Everett Silvertips 5-3 in a key U.S. Division matchup. It was Spokane’s fifth win in a row.
“That was an NHL pass right there, tape to tape,” Chiefs head coach Manny Viveiros said. “It certainly changed the momentum to get a goal like that and it was a beautiful play.”
Mattson led the way for Spokane with two goals to help the Chiefs erase a 2-0 deficit after the first period. Lukas Parik made 26 saves in the win. Everett’s Dustin Wolf stopped 20 shots, and the Silvertips’ Jake Christiansen scored twice.
Filip Kral had three assists for Spokane.
Mattson now has five goals in his past four games. Like any humble hockey player, he credits his teammates.
“My linemates I’ve been playing with (Eli Zummack and Luke Toporowski) have been finding me,” he said. “We made good plays on the power plays and that was a good pass by (Sward) so give the credit to them.”
The Silvertips, using only nine forwards due to injuries and suspensions, were playing their third game in as many nights, but you couldn’t always tell. Everett got out to a 2-0 lead after one period thanks to goals by Ethan Regnier and Christiansen, who scored on a 4-on-3 power play with 31 seconds left in the period. The Chiefs had Cordel Larson and Ty Smith – two important penalty killers – both in the box on Christiansen’s goal.
But for the second straight night, the Chiefs scored four goals in the second period to turn the tide.
“Even though we were down two I thought we played well. We had some good opportunities offensively,” Viveiros said. “This is more than likely our playoff opponent so we have to keep going with our game and I thought our guys did a great job with it.”
Mattson’s first goal came 2:44 into the second on the power play. His breakaway goal tied the game at 8:18.
Just 49 seconds later, Toporowski scored his 19th of the season from the slot and Spokane suddenly had a 3-2 lead.
The Chiefs got some insurance when Adam Beckman scored at 15:38. Christiansen got one back for Everett with his second of the game at 17:04.
The Chiefs controlled play in the third period and a Cordel Larson empty-netter sealed the win with 8 seconds remaining.
Spokane was 2 for 4 on the power play.
The Chiefs are now seven points behind the Silvertips for second place in the U.S. Division, though Everett has two games in hand. Assuming Everett doesn’t catch Portland, these two teams will meet in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’re starting to play playoff hockey and getting down to the nitty gritty of the season,” Mattson said. “We’re probably going to play those guys some more so it’s important to see how we stack up against them.”
The Chiefs go for their sixth straight win Wednesday when they host the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Chiefs honor Spokane Jets
Prior to the game, the Chiefs honored members of the 1970 Spokane Jets, the first American team to win the Allan Cup, given to the top Senior Amateur hockey team in North America.
Former players on the ice during the pregame included Dave Cox, Gail Holden, Charlie Goodwin, Larry Palanio, Vince Collins, George Talotti and Don Scherza. The Allan Cup made an appearance as well, all the way from the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Jets players signed autographs in the Arena concourse during intermission and fans were able to get their picture taken with the Allan Cup.
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