If anyone thought that the Spokane Chiefs were going to just go away after Tri-City built a nine-point lead in the division...think again.
Mitch Wahl chipped in two goals and the Spokane Chiefs (30-14-0-3, 63 pts) closed to within four points of the division-leading Tri-City Americans (32-14-0-3, 67 pts) with a 5-2 victory in front of a sold-out crowd at Veterans Memorial Arena. The red hot Chiefs, who have won two straight against the Americans, stretched their winning streak to eight games and take a 5-3 advantage in the 12-game season series with Tri-City. Meanwhile, the Americans fell to 0-4 at Veterans Memorial Arena this season and have dropped three of their previous four contests.
The Chiefs dominated the first period of play, outshooting the Americans 15 to 7. Just 1:21 into the game and on the power play, Ondrej Roman buried a Jared Cowen rebound, giving the Chiefs an early lead. Then, at the 12:34 mark, Spokane made it 2-0, courtesy of Brady Calla. While on the penalty kill, Drayson Bowman broke out Calla, who went in all alone on Chet Pickard. Calla's shot rang off the crossbar, and dropped behind Pickard, for the tally.
The game's tempo completely changed in the second period, as four fights broke out in the first 34 seconds of the period. Midway through the period, however, Tri-City eventually closed to within one. Brett Plouffe took an outlet pass from Pickard and raced into the Spokane zone. Plouffe then fired a wrist shot over Dustin Tokarski's glove, making it a 2-1 game.
In what was shaping up to be a close third period, Spokane deflated Tri-City's comeback bid, registering two goals in the final 27 seconds of the period, and sent the Chiefs into the second intermission with a 4-1 lead. The first came after Wahl deflected a Bowman shot between Pickard's pads. Then, with three seconds remaining and after Levko Koper won a face-off in the Tri-City zone, Jared Spurgeon fired a slap shot from just inside the blue line, chasing Pickard from the game.
Drew Owsley replaced Pickard to start the third period and, just 1:58 into the final period, the Americans showed some life. From the slot, Spencer Asuchak beat Tokarski, cutting Tri-City's deficit in half.
But, less than 30 seconds later and after a Tri-City turnover at center ice, Wahl collected the loose puck and took off all alone on Owsley. Wahl found space between Owsley's pads, collecting his second goal of the night and capped off the scoring in the contest. Owsley and Pickard combined for 26 saves in the loss, while Tokarski collected 22 saves in the win.
Tri-City finished 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Chiefs went 1-for-6 on the man-advantage.
The Americans will now head back to the friendly confines of the Toyota Center tomorrow, Sunday, January 25, as they will host a rematch with the Everett Silvertips. Game time is 5:05 p.m. Tri-City is 4-1-0-1 this season against the 'Tips, including 3-0 at Toyota Center. The Americans will also look to avoid losing back-to-back games for the fifth time this season. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, including the Toyota Center box office, all Fred Meyer outlets, or online at ticketmaster.com. Those unable to make it to the game can catch all the action live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 4:45 p.m.