Tri-City drops season finale to Chiefs 5-4Posted: Updated:
KENNEWICK, WA - Just like a good novel, sports can keep you guessing up until the very last moment. Unfortunately for fans and readers, sometimes the story just doesn't come out quite the way you would like.
In the final game of the regular season and a chance to secure their third consecutive division banner, the Tri-City Americans (47-22-1-2, 97 pts) saw that reality turn into more of a hope, as the visiting Spokane Chiefs (44-22-3-2, 93 pts) outlasted their hosts 5-4 in front of a sold-out, season-high crowd of 6,053 fans at the Toyota Center. With the win, the Chiefs secure the #4-seed in the upcoming 2010 playoffs and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They also finish the regular season with an 8-4 record vs. their rivals to the south. Meanwhile, although on a bit of a sour note, Tri-City wraps up the regular season with a fourth consecutive season of 47+ wins and 90+ points. The loss also sets up an intriguing scenario tomorrow, when the Chiefs and Everett Silvertips meet to wrap-up the regular season. If the ‘Tips can win or manage an overtime or shootout loss, Everett will claim the 2009-10 division championship. However, should the Chiefs win in regulation, the Americans would win their third straight division banner.
Looking to take the raucous crowd out of the game early, the Chiefs got the first three shots on Tri-City goaltender Alexander Pechurskiy in the first minute of play. Then, just 56 seconds into the game and after a face-off win by Levko Koper in the Tri-City zone, Tyler Johnson fired a wrist shot past Pechurskiy to put Spokane up 1-0.
Tri-City, however, got several chances to get back into the contest as the Chiefs took four penalties over the course of the next 19 minutes. But, despite four power play opportunities, the Americans managed just five combined shots on goal and still trailed 1-0 headed into the first break.
At the start of the second period, Spokane then notched another quick goal, this time 3:15 into the period. After Brett Bartman dumped the puck into the corner, Mitch Wahl whipped a shot on Pechurskiy from the goal line. The puck somehow found its way through the near post and Pechurskiy's pads, giving Spokane a 2-0 lead.
Tri-City, though, just 2:25 later, cut their deficit to one, as Justin Feser banged in a Patrick Holland rebound for his 36th goal of the season. But, nearing the midway point of the period, Kyle Beach picked off an errant Tri-City pass and fed it out to Corbin Baldwin at the left point. Baldwin let a shot go that beat Pechurskiy, who was screened on the play, putting the Chiefs right back on top by two.
In the third period, though, Tri-City started to take control of the contest. Needing to score early to get back into the game, Kruise Reddick dug the puck out of a pile-up in front of Spokane netminder James Reid, then found the back of the net to make it a 3-2 game.
But, with 12:43 remaining in regulation, Tyler Schmidt picked up a major penalty for clipping on Beach, giving the Chiefs a five-minute, score-at-will power play. And score at will they did, connecting twice less than two minutes apart on goals by Anthony Bardaro and Kenton Miller. And, just like that, the Chiefs led 5-2.
Spokane, however, got themselves into hot water, as penalties late in the contest gave Tri-City life. After back-to-back penalties by Jared Cowen and Bartman 19 seconds apart, the Americans pulled Pechurskiy for an extra attacker and scored twice to cut the lead back down to one. With 2:17 remaining in the contest and playing 6-on-3, Neal Prokop tipped an Adam Hughesman shot from the high slot, past Reid, for his 22nd goal of the season. Then, 13 seconds later and playing 6-on-4, Hughesman fired a wrist shot past Reid for his career-best 18th goal of the year.
A late penalty on Reddick, however, put the Americans on their heels and could not find the equalizer. Pechurskiy finished the night with 30 saves on 35 shots in the loss. Meanwhile, Reid stopped 37 of the 41 shots he faced in the win. Tri-City went 2-for-7 on the power play, while Spokane finished the night 2-for-4 on the man-advantage.