PORTLAND, Ore. — It wouldn’t be a surprise for a rookie 16-year-old forward to feel some nerves in his first Western Hockey League playoff game. Spokane Chiefs forward Luke Toporowski has no time for that.
The first-year winger recorded two assists and scored his first career playoff goal just over two minutes into overtime in Portland on Saturday night, pushing the Chiefs to a 1-0 series lead against the division rival Winterhawks.
After both teams shook off the game one jitters early in the first period, it was the Chiefs who struck first as defenseman Nolan Reid – also in his first career playoff game – one-timed the puck past Portland goaltender Cole Kehler at the 18:32 mark to take a 1-0 lead. Riley Woods, who finished a goal and two assists on the night, earned the primary assist with a perfect feed to Reid between the circles.
Detroit Red Wings first round pick Dennis Cholowski tied the game at 1-1 for the hosting Winterhawks, tapping the puck into an open net after a clean set-up from forward Cody Glass under a minute into the second period.
The tie was short-lived as Woods scored on the ensuing shift, making it 2-1 just 19 seconds later on a tap-in of his own as linemate Jake McGrew found Woods wide open from behind the Portland net.
The Winterhawks responded again to tie it at the 5:51 mark of the middle frame as Henri Jokiharju wristed a goal to the far post from the left wing to make it 2-2.
Spokane once again took the lead midway through the second as Carolina Hurricanes prospect Hudson Elynuik corralled a rebound and fired home a power play goal with assists to Woods and Eli Zummack.
Portland continued to bounce back, tying it at 3-3 with Cholowski’s second goal of the night as the defenseman wrapped around behind the net to beat Chiefs netminder Bailey Brkin to the left post.
After a thrilling but scoreless third period, including a key penalty kill for the Chiefs to close out regulation, Spokane got the bounce they needed.
Toporowski took the puck down the right wing and made a strong move to the net, flipping the puck up and over Kehler to score the game-winner at 2:15 of overtime.
Brkin finished with 36 saves to Kehler’s 35. Spokane finished 1-for-2 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
The Chiefs lead the first round series 1-0 with Game Two scheduled for Sunday in Portland. The puck will drop at 5 p.m. with Mike Boyle’s pre-game show on 1510 KGA NW Sports Talk beginning at 4:30.
Spokane Arena will host Games 3 and 4 of the Chiefs’ first round series versus the Portland Winterhawks on Wednesday, March 28 and Thursday, March 29. Both games will begin at 7:05 p.m.
Tickets for both games are available in-person at the Chiefs’ Ticket Office, over the phone at 509-535-PUCK and online here.