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Spokane Chiefs dig early hole, can’t catch host Tri-City 4-3

From staff reports

KENNEWICK – The Spokane Chiefs dug themselves an early hole Saturday night, and despite scoring the last two goals, the visitors ran out of time, falling to the Tri-City Americans 4-3 in a Western Hockey League game at Toyota Center.

The Americans (8-5-1-1) found the net first just 7 minutes into the first period. Spokane goalie Cooper Michaluk made an initial save on a wrist shot from Brandon Whynott from the right-wing circle, but the Tri-City forward skated through the crease, corralled the rebound and flipped it over Michaluk’s right shoulder for his sixth goal of the season.

A couple of minutes later, with Spokane’s Hayden Paupanekis in the box for tripping, Deagan McMillan was camped in the slot and converted a pass from behind the goal line from Jake Sloan for his third goal against the Chiefs this season and seventh overall.

Spokane (6-6-2-0) received a power play late in the period, but Lukas Matecha (32 saves) made a glove save on Owen Martin’s one-timer from the slot to keep it at 2-0 after one.

Early in the second period, Chiefs defenseman Saige Weinstein’s shot from the point was redirected by Ty Cheveldayoff past Matecha to halve the deficit for his third goal of the season.

It didn’t stay that way long. Less than a minute later, Sloan was dragged down in the high slot and whipped the puck toward the goal from his back. Jordan Gavin was waiting on the far post to sweep it into the net to restore a two-goal lead.

Moments later, Max Curran’s pass eluded two Chiefs defenders who had laid out on the ice and Cruz Pavao – making his WHL debut – knocked it in the net for his first WHL career goal to make it 4-1.

Martin made good late in the second period, collecting a loose puck in the slot and dumping it in the open backside of the net to make it 4-2 after two periods.

Conner Roulette made it a one-goal game 36 seconds into the third period as he gained control of the puck behind the net and put a backhander past Matecha from a sharp angle.

Roulette had a golden opportunity to tie it with 7 minutes left on a breakaway, but his shot was deflected by Matecha over the goal and out of play.

Things got chippy late. Cheveldayoff delivered a heavy hit in open ice to Parker Bell, and Tri-City’s Alex Serraglio took exception. The pair fought while trainers attended to the dazed Bell.

Bell was helped off the ice by teammates; Cheveldayoff was assessed a major checking to the head penalty on top of 5 minutes for fighting.

Shorthanded down the stretch, the Chiefs had several opportunities late to tie, but Matecha rebuffed each Spokane shot to preserve the win.