SPOKANE, Wash. – Rookie forward Eli Zummack recorded his first career three-point night to lead the charge as the Spokane Chiefs scored three goals in the third period and hung on late to defeat the visiting Portland Winterhawks, 6-5. The win brings the Chiefs within nine points of the Winterhawks for the final playoff berth in the WHL’s Western Conference with the two teams slated for a rematch in Portland on Friday night.
Portland took advantage of a fortuitous bounce off the dasherboards to the left of Chiefs’ goaltender Dawson Weatherill to open the scoring at the 4:53 mark of the first period. The puck looked as though it would rim around behind the net but caught a seam, bouncing back toward the right circle, from where Portland’s Colton Veloso slid it into the open net for an easy goal.
The Chiefs bounced back four minutes later as Ethan McIndoe scored his 12th goal of the season. After Zummack forced a turnover in the neutral zone and McIndoe kicked the puck to himself down the left wing, the second-year forward wristed a shot that snuck past Portland goalie Cole Kehler to make it 1-1.
Portland found the back of the net on a power play exactly 11 minutes into regulation to regain a one-goal lead as Alex Overhardt slid his 12th of the season under Weatherill from the left circle, assisted by Ryan Hughes.
Spokane responded with a goal of their own, this time while shorthanded as overage forward Alex Mowbray found the back of the net for just the second time as a Chief. Taylor Ross blocked a shot in the Chiefs’ defensive zone before skipping a pass across the red line off the right sideboards. Mowbray tracked the puck down and pulled it across Kehler, finishing with his backhand to tie it up.
The Chiefs earned their first lead of the night with a rebound score by Hayden Ostir at the 12:46 mark of the second. Zummack forced another Portland turnover, this time at the Chiefs’ blue line, and carried the puck down the length of the ice to put a shot on Kehler. Ostir was there to clean it up for his sixth goal of the year.
Portland responded with just under four minutes left in the middle frame as Hughes found a streaking Brendan De Jong with a backdoor pass for his second assist of the night. De Jong’s tap-in was his eighth goal of the season.
The Winterhawks looked like they might take control for good at the 3:21 mark of the third period as Skyler McKenzie punched in his team-leading 34th goal of the season to make it 4-3.
Spokane came right back once again as Jaret Anderson-Dolan fired a laser beam from the right point that found the net at 7:05, with assists to Kailer Yamamoto and rookie defenseman Ty Smith.
Zummack scored a goal of his own with 9:56 left in regulation, putting himself in the right place at the right time on the left side of the net to corral a deflected Ostir shot for a rebound score.
Just sixty seconds later, Keanu Yamamoto threaded a cross-ice pass from the right corner through to team captain Tyson Helgesen on the left side. The 19-year-old defenseman snapped home his eighth goal of the season and second game-winner, with assists to both Yamamoto brothers.
The Winterhawks threatened late with two power plays as Overhardt scored his second of the night, but the Chiefs held on for the narrow win. The one-goal game was the fourth in five head-to-head matchups between the two clubs this season. Spokane is now 2-2-0-1 against Portland as they will face off again in two days.
Weatherill finished with 35 saves on 40 shots faced while Kehler turned aside 37 of 43. The Chiefs went 0-for-1 on the power play and 5-for-7 on the penalty kill.
Friday night’s rematch will be broadcast live on 1510 KGA NW Sports Talk, on the radio dial and at 1510kga.com.
The Chiefs return home on Saturday night to host the rival Tri-City Americans on CenturyLink Buck Night & CheerStix Giveaway at Spokane Arena, with $1 hot dogs and Coca-Cola products all game long.