The Tri-City Americans were winless against the Spokane Chiefs in three tries this season, not to mention goalie Eric Comrie was winless in five career starts against their biggest rival.
Friday, Malte Strömwall scored the game winner 43 seconds into overtime and Comrie had 35 saves as the Americans rallied twice to hand the Chiefs a 5-4 loss before a crowd of 5,184 at Toyota Center.
“That was entertaining, no doubt,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team will play at Spokane tonight. “Finally, we got one at the end against Spokane. We have pushed for chances at the end and come up short. We will enjoy this one.”
The Chiefs (16-7-1-0, 33 points) fell into third in the U.S. Division, one point behind second-place Tri-City (16-7-1-1).
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“We were 13 seconds away from a win,” said Spokane coach Don Nachbaur, who coached his 999th WHL game. “We made far too many mistakes for us to walk out of here feeling good about our game. We got a point in this building. We’ll take it.”
Strömwall’s goal was his eighth of the season and his fourth game-winner.
“Me and (Justin) Feser were 2-on-2 and he shot it,” Strömwall said. “It deflected off the D-man’s leg. I knew what I wanted to do. I faked a shot, held the puck, then shot it.”
Comrie was glad he did.
“It feels good to get the win and the monkey off my back,” Comrie said.
With the game winding down to the final seconds in regulation, the Americans were down 4-3 and goalie Comrie was on the bench for an extra attacker.
Tri-City had the puck in Spokane’s zone, and after shots by Feser and Mitch Topping, Marcus Messier picked up a loose puck in the slot and put it past Chiefs goalie Eric Williams to tie the score with 16.1 seconds left in regulation.
“It was so scrambly in front of the net,” Messier said. “Feser and Topping got a few shots and I was fortunate to find it there. This was a classic Spokane game. You want to be on the ice the whole time and your adrenaline is pumping.”
The Americans opened the second period trailing Spokane 3-2, but some quick thinking by Beau McCue tied the score at 8:44.
McCue had his original shot blocked by Williams and the puck dropped next to the left post just inches from the goal line. Williams lost sight of the puck, but not McCue, who went around a Spokane defenseman and poked the puck in the net.
Spokane’s Collin Valcourt gave Spokane a 4-3 lead at 16:26, but the Chiefs couldn’t hold on for the win.
After a tight first period that saw each goalie give up just one goal, the Chiefs put a little space between themselves and the Americans with a pair of goals in a span of 5:17 in the second.
Blake Gal scored his first of the season at 9:03, beating Comrie from the slot. Brenden Kichton found the net at 14:20, taking a pass from Jackson Playfair as he skated into the zone, and blasted the puck into the net from the left point.
The Americans got a boost from their defense in the waning seconds of the period as Mitch Topping took a pass from fellow D-man Michal Plutnar and beat Williams stick side to pull Tri-City back into contention at 19:46.
Spokane defenseman Cole Wedman opened the scoring at 5:29 of the first as his shot from the left point clanked off the far post and ended up in the net behind Comrie.
Strömwall looked to tie the score 6 minutes later, but his shot from the slot was blocked. Strömwall went down in a pile with a couple of Spokane players in front of the net, with the puck right behind him.
Zach Yuen picked up the loose puck and lifted it into the net for his third goal of the season.Williams finished with 37 saves.
Notes: With two assists, Feser has 151 during his career. ... The Seattle Thunderbirds acquired defenseman Griffin Foulk from the Everett Silvertips in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft.