Good heaven! Another Game 7

By Annie Fowler, Tri-City HeraldApril 17, 2012 

SPOKANE -- You want to play in the Western Conference finals? Then you have to earn it.

Rookie Liam Stewart scored the game-winner in overtime to lead the Spokane Chiefs to a 4-3 victory over the Tri-City Americans on Monday night at Spokane Arena.

"I kind of closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Stewart said. "The best came to me and it went in. We all came in after the third, regrouped, kept calm and played our hearts out. It all paid off. This is the most fun I have ever had. It's a dream."

The Chiefs, who needed the win to stay alive, forced Game 7, which is Wednesday at Toyota Center. The winner of the series gets the winner of the Kamloops-Portland series, which is tied at 3-3 after the Blazers rallied from a 5-2 deficit to beat the Winterhawks 7-6.

"I've held my breath since this series started," Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. "We had our backs to the wall tonight and found a way to win. We aren't going to sit here and pat ourselves on the back. They are a hell of a hockey team and we are going to have to bring our best to move on to the next series."

The Americans, who have lost all three overtime games in the series, rallied back from deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 to tie the score in the third.

"It's tough, we had our chances again," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team outshot the Chiefs 30-24. "We had to come back and we wanted to get the lead, but that didn't happen. It has been exciting and memorable for our players. Now we're ready to go home and put an end to it. No better place for the Tri-City Americans to play."

No lead was safe in the game, as the Chiefs found out in the second period.

With Spokane leading 2-1 after the first, Tri-City tied things up at 8:47 with a short-handed goal by Justin Feser, who picked up a rebound off a shot by Mason Wilgosh and swept the puck into the net past Eric Williams.

Spokane came back 33 seconds later with a power-play goal by Steve Kuhn to put the Chief back on top 3-2.

Playing 4-on-4 late in the period, Wilgosh fed the puck up ice to Holland, who got Spokane's Reid Gow turned around in the slot. Holland went in alone on Williams and tied the score at 3 at 18:31.

"We didn't lose our composure when Reid stumbled and Holland went in and tied it," Nachbaur said. "That was good to see."

Spokane, with it's season on the line, took a 2-1 lead at the end the first period.

Tri-City opened the scoring as Derek Ryckman picked up a rebound off a shot by Holland at the point and put the puck in a wide open net behind Williams at 2:56.

The Chiefs came back with a power-play goal by Dominik Uher at 5:35, getting the puck past Ty Rimmer stick side. Rimmer finished with 20 saves.

Mitch Holmberg scored his 10th goal of the postseason at 6:28 to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead.

Holmberg, on a 2-on-1 with Mike Aviani, tried to send the puck across the slot to Aviani, but Tri-City defenseman Mitch Topping got his stick in the way and the puck went into the net past Rimmers' right shoulder.

NOTES: With an assist, Tri-City's Brendan Shinnimin extended his scoring streak to 33 games. ... The Chiefs are 5-1 on home ice during the playoffs, with their only loss being a 2-1 setback to the Americans in Game 3. ... Kamloops, which trailed Portland 3-0 in their series, is on the verge of being just the second team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. In 1996, Spokane rallied to defeat Portland, winning Game 7 in overtime, 4-3, in Spokane.

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