The Tri-City Americans don’t boast a ton of depth, but the top line of Connor Bouchard, Samuel Huo and Sasha Mutala can be downright lethal.
The Spokane Chiefs were reminded of that Tuesday night at the Arena. The Bouchard-Huo-Mutala line scored three goals, including the winner in overtime, to down the Chiefs 4-3.
The line combined for seven points.
Huo had two goals and an assist, including the winning goal just 23 seconds into the extra frame. Huo took a pass from Mutala on a 2-on-1 and beat Spokane goaltender Manny Panghli. Mutala and Huo found themselves on a breakaway after an Adam Beckman shot was blocked and sent the other way.
“They’re a good line, but I thought we weren’t where we were the last couple games,” Chiefs head coach Adam Maglio said. “I thought our third (period) was better so that was a positive. Their top line came through for them.”
Talyn Boyko, Tri-City’s 6-foot-7 goaltender, didn’t make things any easier. Boyko takes up a lot of space in the net and made 24 saves for Tri-City. Panghli stopped 25 for Spokane.
Maglio said his team made Boyko’s job easy.
“We have to hit the net a little bit more,” Maglio said. “I thought maybe we were trying to be a little too accurate there instead of finding rebounds. But you hope when you score three you’re still going to win.”
Boyko stopped Cordel Larson on a 2-on-0 in the first period and also came up big with a save on a Beckman shorthanded breakaway early in the second period.
Luke Toporowski led the way for Spokane with a goal and an assist – his first time finding the net and the scoresheet since returning to Spokane. Toporowski is skating on the second line with Reed Jacobson and Eli Zummack.
“I’m still trying to build that chemistry with the guys here. I thought tonight we did a good job of it but couldn’t seal the deal,” he said.
Tri-City took a 1-0 lead as Tyson Greenway put home a rebound at 5:46 of the first period. Beckman answered for Spokane just 10 seconds into the Chiefs’ first power-play opportunity at 10:28. It was Beckman’s team-leading 16th goal of the season.
Graham Sward scored his first of the season to give Spokane a 2-1 lead when he put a puck on net from the point at 12:18 of the first. With traffic in front, the puck seemed to fool Boyko.
But then the Bouchard-Huo-Mutala line got to work. Bouchard scored just four seconds into a Tri-City power play at 14:18 of the second to tie the score.
Toporowski’s goal gave Spokane the lead again at 9:41 of the third when he redirected a pass in front from Jacobson.
But a defensive breakdown allowed Huo to tie the score at 12:47. Huo was all alone in front of Panghli for the easy goal.
The teams traded chances in the third before giving way to the brief overtime period that ended with Huo’s winner.
The Chiefs will embark on a three-game trip to end the season on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“We have to take care of our bodies this week to get ready for Friday’s game against Everett,” Toporowski said. “If we do the little things right, we’ll get rewarded for it. We’re just pushing into these last three games and making it worth it.”
The loss was the last home game in a Chiefs sweater for 20-year-olds Zummack, Matt Leduc and Bobby Russell.
“They’re three leaders for a reason. They’re awesome in the locker room, awesome on the ice,” Toporowski said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play with (Zummack) as well and he’s a great player. It’s just going to be a great three games with these guys and we’re going to play for them.”
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