Kennewick, Wa. Three nights ago, the Tri-City Americans (32-22-8-1, 73 pts.) suffered their worst loss of the season at the hands of the Portland Winterhawks by a score of 9-0. It was a night when nothing went the Americans way. Friday night would be a good test to see how they bounced back, especially mentally, as they took on one of the hottest teams in the league in the Spokane Chiefs (37-21-3-2, 79 pts.). Most matches against these two divisional foes usually go down to the wire. Friday night was no different. The Americans didn’t get the outcome they wanted, but they did fight hard before eventually losing 5-4 in OT to the Chiefs.
Things felt all too familiar for the home team crowd in this one. The Americans suffered another slow start, something that has plagued them at times this season. Tri-City spent a lot of the early part of the first period defending against Spokane’s speedster offense. Goaltender Patrick Dea was forced to make some key saves against a couple of Chiefs early quality chances. Dea stood firm for most of the first half of the period, but a Tri-City penalty at the 8:19 mark started a quick Spokane offensive outburst. Chiefs forward Ethan McIndoe netted his 21st of the season on the power play at the the 9:03 mark. The top Spokane power play unit, which includes forwards Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Kailer Yamamoto did a great job of puck movement keeping the attack in the Americans zone. Spokane was able to keep traffic in front of Dea, and McIndoe’s shot from the mid-point found its way through and in. It took just 36 seconds for the Chiefs to extend that lead to two as defenseman Dalton Hamaliuk netted his 4th of the season after Spokane once again took advantage of the Americans with its speedy puck movement. Tri-City would need to find an answer, and a counterattack, if they were going to get back into this one. That answer came just under three minutes later as forward Jordan Topping got Tri-City on the board. Defenseman Juuso Välimäki showed off his nifty puck handling skills by weaving his way through the Spokane defense. Topping collected a pass in the slot and ripped a shot that Spokane goaltender Dawson Weatherill seemed to stop, but the puck in fact trickled through to give Topping his 36th of the season. With under a minute left in the opening frame, the Americans would get the equalizer on the strength of forward Morgan Geekie’s 24th goal of the year. Geekie was set up behind the Spokane goal line and flipped a quick shot that deflected off of Weatherill’s skate and in. The two teams would carry the tied game into intermission. Tri-City outshot Spokane 13-12 in the first.
Four goals total in the first led to a much quieter second scoring wise. Tri-City took their first lead of the night at the five minute mark. An all-out attack by the Americans in the Spokane defensive zone set up the scoring play. The play was orchestrated beautifully by defenseman Jake Bean who may haunt some Spokane nightmares after the nifty moves he made just inside the Chiefs blue line. Three Spokane defenders fell to the ice trying to strip Bean of the puck. Bean’s nifty puck handling opened up a lot of space for Tri-City, and a great pass to defenseman Dylan Coghlan gave the Vegas Golden Knights’ prospect the time he needed to rifle home his 17th of the season. After taking the quick 2-0 lead, Spokane had now surrendered three straight and needed some answers of their own. Spokane was given three straight power play opportunities. After failing to convert on the first two, they found their answer in the third late in the period. Rookie defenseman Filip Kral tied things up with his 7th on the season, on the power play. It was Spokane’s patience, not speed this time that allowed them to set things up and give Kral the chance to fire through traffic. At the end of 40 minutes, the score was tied at three, and shots on net were tied at 28.
The third period was almost an identical carbon copy of the second. Under a minute in, Geekie scored his second of the night with a laser from the right circle. The play was set up after a great individual effort by Topping. Topping flipped the puck in, was interfered with chasing after it, and on the delayed penalty call, his pass to Geekie helped put Tri-City back in the lead. Just under five minutes later, the Chiefs found the equalizer as forward Jake McGrew netted his 17th of the year. With the way this back-and-forth affair had gone all evening, it was fitting that it would head to overtime tied at four. The overtime frame was marked by both teams patiently waiting for their chances. Tri-City controlled the face offs and subsequently the pace for much of the extra frame. Spokane sat back and waited for an opening of their own. Weatherill made a couple of key saves to keep the game alive for the Chiefs. Spokane’s patience paid off for them with just over a minute left. Anderson-Dolan, someone you don’t want to give the puck to if you’re an opposing player, ended it with his 35th of the season on a great individual effort. A hard fought battle for both ended in great dramatic fashion. Tri-City outshot the Chiefs 40-38 in the game. Tri-City’s power play woes continued as they went 0-for-2. Spokane was 2-for-5 on the man-advantage. The Americans will host Portland on Saturday while Spokane will travel to Kelowna for a tilt with the Rockets.