During the third period media timeout, with the Spokane Chiefs and Vancouver Giants tied at 1, Spokane head coach Manny Viveiros asked his team to rush the net a little more to get a dirty goal to take the lead.
Eli Zummack heeded the advice, crashed the net and was promptly taken down in the crease. Lucky for Zummack, the puck found its way to the net and he looked up from his belly and discovered it sitting right there. He pushed it in to give Spokane a 2-1 lead in a game they would go on to win 3-1 on Friday night.
“Going to the net is going to draw penalties, and good things always happen,” Zummack said. “I drove the net and somehow it was right underneath me.”
Lukas Parik was outstanding in net, stopping 41 shots in the win. The Chiefs put 27 shots on Vancouver goaltender David Tendeck but were able to capitalize.
Zummack’s goal extended his point streak to 16 games, the longest current streak in the Western Hockey League. Adam Beckman had an assist and has a 12-game point streak.
Zummack has 14 goals and 31 assists and is usually the one setting up his teammates. He was in the right place at the right time to get the winning goal.
“I’m keeping it simple. I’m playing with very, very good linemates, and they’re helping me out a lot,” he said. “I’m a pass-first kind of guy and they’ve been finishing. It’s not so much focusing on the points but focusing on the little details.”
Zummack skated on a line with Luke Toporowski and Bear Hughes, a switch from recent games.
Viveiros used a modified lineup, moving Leif Mattson to the top line and putting speedy Cordel Larson on the third line. Viveiros also moved Hughes to the second line.
The Chiefs had a fourth line made up of 16-year-olds Brandon Reller and Owen MacNeil and 17-year-old Erik Atchison. Viveiros made sure to put his top defensive pairing – Noah King and Ty Smith – with the young forwards.
“We try and protect our young guys on the ice as much as possible,” Viveiros said. “Sometimes if you get the wrong matchup, they go up against (older) guys so we try and protect them as much as possible with veteran players. I’m happy with the way our young kids played tonight, but they do make mistakes sometimes as everybody does, but it’s nice to have two solid defensemen out there.”
The Chiefs and Giants were scoreless after a quick first period. Michael King broke the ice when he deflected a Smith shot from the point at 5:54 of the second. Tristen Nielsen tied it for Vancouver with a nice shot in front at 8:24 of the second.
Zummack’s goal gave Spokane the lead in the third, but it looked like Vancouver would tie it again when Tyler Preziuso skated in alone on Parik with a little more than 8 minutes remaining. Parik tracked Preziuso and turned him aside to maintain the lead.
“A lot of times we say it’s not how many saves you make, it’s when you make the saves,” Viveiros said. “That kept momentum going and kept the good feelings going.”
Jack Finley scored an insurance goal at 13:40. Vancouver pulled Tendeck to get an extra skater late, but the Spokane defense and Parik shut them down.
Parik and Smith each played their first game in Spokane since returning from the World Junior Hockey Championships. Smith brought home some extra luggage in the form of a gold medal, and both are big pieces in Spokane’s lineup.
“It’s huge. With them, we’re a whole new team,” Zummack said. “Smitty is exceptional, same with Parik. They were big losses when they were gone, but now that they’re back, we’re going to get things rolling here.”
The Chiefs and Giants meet again Saturday, this time in Langley, British Columbia.
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