By Dan Mulhausen, Tri-City Americans
SPOKANE, WA – On Friday, the calendar's unluckiest of days proved to be just that for the Americans.
With an innocent shot from the right circle, Dominik Uher's backhander slipped under the catching arm of Ty Rimmer, giving the Spokane Chiefs (6-4-0, 12 pts) a 3-2 overtime win over the Tri-City Americans (6-0-2, 12 pts) in Game 4 of their conference semi-finals series in front of 7,520 fans inside Veterans Memorial Arena. The win knotted the series at two games apiece and assured a Game 6 back in Spokane on Monday, April 16.
The bad luck started early for Tri-City, as the Chiefs dictated play from the drop of the puck. In doing so, Spokane also skated out to a 2-0 lead by the end of the 1st period.
Just 3:42 into the contest, and deep inside Tri-City territory, Sam Grist's clearing pass went straight onto the stick of Collin Valcourt, who was in the high slot. Valcourt took a couple of strides before blasting a shot over Rimmer's glove for the early lead. Then, just past the midway point of the period, and on the power play, Mitch Holmberg took a feed from Davis Vandane and beat Rimmer under his glove for a 2-0 lead.
Facing their largest deficit of the post-season, Tri-City mounted a 2nd period comeback.
Exactly three minutes into the period, defenseman Derek Ryckman cheated up into the Spokane zone, where he was able to capitalize on an Adam Hughesman rebound. Hughesman's shot from the corner rang off the near post, but bounced into the slot, where Ryckman banged it home. Then, nine and a half minutes later, and on a power play of their own, this time Hughesman scored himself, redirecting Patrick Holland's shot over Eric Williams' glove to tie the game at 2.
Both teams had their chances in the 3rd period, but none bigger than Dylan Walchuk's breakaway with 1:40 left in regulation. Taking advantage of Zachary Yuen's slip, Walchuk skated in uncontested on Rimmer, only to have his attempt glance off the left post and out of harm's way.
Playing in the series' second overtime game, the two sides continued to exchange volleys only to come away empty handed. But, six and a half minutes into the extra session, Valcourt got the puck onto the stick of Uher, who was shadowed by the Tri-City defense into the right circle. Uher flung a shot on goal, but it managed to find daylight under Rimmer's arm, ending the game.
Williams, behind a playoff-high 33 saves, improved to 6-2 this post-season while maintaining his streak of 8 straight starts of allowing 2 goals or less. Meanwhile, Rimmer, who fell to 6-0-2 this post-season, stopped 34 of the 37 shot he faced. Tri-City finished the night 1-for-5 on the power play, while the Chiefs went 1-of-4 on the man-advantage.
Fresh off a fourth consecutive one-goal decision, the series now shifts back to Kennewick for Game 5 tomorrow, April 14 at Toyota Center. Game time is 7:05 PM. The Americans will be looking to maintain home-ice advantage, while each team battles for a 3rd win in the series.