Spokane skated out to a 3-0 lead and held on late as they picked up a crucial 5-2 win over Tri-City in front of 10,122 fans at the Spokane Arena Saturday night. The win moved the Chiefs ahead of the Americans and into a dead heat with Victoria for fourth place in the U.S. Division Western Conference. Riley Whittingham scored a pair of goals and Eric Williams stopped 30 shots as the Chiefs improved to 18-9-0-0 at home and 32-21-2-0 overall.
The first period featured plenty of physical play between the rivals as well as strong performances from both goaltenders. Williams stopped a pair of breakaways from Malte Stromwall and Justin Feser among a total of nine Tri-City shots to keep the Americans off the board for the game's first 20 minutes.
On the other side of the ice, Luke Lee-Knight turned away 11 shots in the period but couldn't stop Whittingham from banging home a rebound on a 5-on-3 advantage at 17:56. Whittingham's goal was assisted by Brenden Kichton and Reid Gow and gave Spokane a 1-0 lead.
The Chiefs controlled the second period from start to finish as the outshot the Americans 16-8 and took a 2-0 lead with Whittingham's second goal of the night at 15:34 on an assist from Liam Stewart. Williams was perfect in net for the second consecutive period to keep Tri-City scoreless after 40 minutes.
Spokane stretched its lead to 3-0 just 25-seconds into the third as Connor Chartier lit the lamp off Stewart's second assist of the night. Tri-City answered with a shorthanded goal from Lucas Nickles at 2:58 to cut the Chiefs' lead to 3-1.
Adam Helewka scored unassisted on the breakaway at 12:28 to push the lead to three but Tri-City got a short-handed goal from Brian Williams to pull the Americans within two scores. Tri-City pulled Lee-Knight with just under three minutes remaining but couldn’t beat Williams again as Mike Aviani scored an empty net goal at 19:26 to provide the final margin.
Williams finished 30 of 32 on save opportunities while Lee-Knight was 27 of 31. Spokane went 1 for 6 on the power play and 1 for 1 on the penalty kill.