If you were at Western Financial Place Friday night, you might have thought you were watching the Kootenay Ice and Spokane Chiefs run a track meet instead of play a hockey game.
Those in attendance got full value for their ticket, as the Ice and Chiefs combined for 12 goals in regulation before Kailer Yamamoto redirected a Jason Fram point shot to give Spokane a wild 7-6 victory in overtime.
“You score six goals, you should win a hockey game, but I’m sure [the Chiefs] felt the same way,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, Friday night.
“It turned into a bit of a track meet there and that’s not how we need to play the game. They scored three of their first four goals off of track-meet type plays. Our first three goals are all earned from good, hard, old-fashioned work. If we stick to that plan, I think we’ll be fine.
“We just get caught up in the emotion of the game, which is understandable as a young team. It’s an exciting way to play, but you have to have some self control.”
Yamamoto’s game-winner came off a face-off only 1:10 into the three-on-three session.
“It’s huge, obviously when they tie it up late like that, it’s easy to get down on yourself and for the guys to bury their heads,” said Fram, the Chiefs captain, following Friday’s game. “But I thought we rallied and it was really relieving to see that puck go in.”
After the Chiefs killed the remaining 55 seconds of an Ice power play to start overtime, Markson Bechtold exited the penalty box before burning into the offensive zone and putting a shot into Kootenay goaltender Declan Hobbs, leading to a face-off.
Spokane coach Don Nachbaur, one of the league’s most experienced bench bosses, called timeout to draw up a play.
“Every face-off is important,” Fram said of the winning sequence. “Their tying goal — they win a face-off and score a goal. It comes right down to face-offs right to the end. We got a big win and [Yamamoto] went to the net and just managed to bang it in.”
Fram, 20, was the point man on the winning sequence and his assist on the play capped an impressive four-point outing, which included two goals in 51 seconds late in the second period.
Overtime was made possible by an impressive rally from the young Ice late in regulation.
Trailing 6-4 with time winding down, Ice right winger Jesse Zaharichuk extended his personal point streak to seven games when he converted on the power play with 2:52 remaining in regulation.
Moments later, as Fram alluded to, Ice veteran Zak Zborosky made good on a clean faceoff win to tie the game 6-6 with only 1:36 to play in the third period.
“That’s how it’s supposed to work,” Zborosky said Friday. “Alf [Matt Alfaro] won the draw clean to me. It was on my stick and off my stick and it was in.
“It’s good to know [we can come back] because in games after this, if we’re down by two, we have a chance, we are in those games, no matter what the score is.”
Up until Fram’s outburst in the second period, fans were witness to a strong outing from the home team, which led 3-2 beyond the midpoint of the period.
A welcoming positive for the Ice was key contributions coming from a widespread group within the lineup. With goals tough to come by at times this season, and often fuelled by the line of Zborosky, Alfaro and Zaharichuk, the Ice saw six different goal scorers get in on the act Friday.
Playing in his 99th career regular season game, River Beattie tied the game 1-1 in the first period before 16-year-old rookie Max Patterson gave the home team a 2-1 lead only 2:28 into the second period.
After Chiefs forward Jacob Cardiff drew the game even, rookie defenceman Dallas Hines put a puck past Chiefs starting goaltender Lasse Petersen to restore the one-goal lead for the home team.
From there, Fram changed the face of the game, scoring twice over a matter of 51 seconds to give his team a momentous 4-3 lead heading into the dressing room after 40 minutes.
Both of the South Delta native’s tallies — his ninth and 10th of the campaign, respectively — came off odd-man rushes.
“The guys I was on the ice with created space,” Fram said. “I found some open opportunities and just shot the puck. Sometimes those go in, sometimes they don’t. That second goal was a rolling puck. Sometimes those go in the corner, but tonight it managed to find its way in.”
The wild, back-and-forth affair continue into the third period as Presten Kopeck — a one-time member of the Ice for all of 25 hours — gave the visitors a 5-3 edge with a power-play marker early on.
But battle the Ice did, refusing to go away.
Only 47 seconds elapsed after Kopeck’s goal before Ice rookie Shane Allan scored on a beautiful breakaway effort — his first WHL goal in his 41st career game — to pull his crew back within one.
“It’s great. It’s a nice monkey off the back for me,” Allan, 18, said with a smile Friday. “It’s something you dream about as a kid, so it’s real nice.
“I saw my centre man coming off the ice, so I hopped off the bench and noticed Fleur [Cale Fleury] with the puck on the far side so I just thought I’d cut towards the blue line, see if I could get a stretch pass and catch their ‘D’ off guard. Sure enough, Fleur was awake.”
Allan skated in all alone on Chiefs goaltender Tyson Verhelst, who came on in relief of Petersen at the midpoint of the second period. The Ice rookie executed a shifty deke before sliding the puck home for a beautiful and memorable marker.
“I was just trying to kind of read off the goalie, maybe think shoot low blocker or something, try to catch him off guard,” Allan said, recounting the breakaway. “But I saw he was out of his net a bit, so I gave him a little pump fake and he went down right away.”
The Ice weathered an early onslaught from the visiting Chiefs, which started basically from the opening puck drop.
Only 14 seconds had ticked off the clock before a familiar name — former Red Deer Rebel Wyatt Johnson — opened the scoring for the Chiefs, going bar and in behind Hobbs.
At the end of the night, Hobbs made 32 saves on 39 shots.
At the other end, Petersen was chased after allowing three goals on 16 shots, exiting the game at the media timeout during the second period. Verhelst came on in relief, making 17 saves on 20 shots to collect the victory.
After Friday’s wild and wooly affair was a tough one to match as the Chiefs claimed a second consecutive victory Saturday night in Spokane.
The Chiefs scored twice in the first period, as Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Kopeck provided a 2-0 lead for the hosts after 20 minutes.
Ice rookie Jared Legien tallied his third of the season on a beautiful breakaway, backhand effort to cut the lead to 2-1 only 6:29 into the third period, but that’s as close as Kootenay could claw this time around.
Chiefs forward Curtis Miske rounded out the scoring with 2:03 remaining in regulation.
Verhelst collect his second straight victory over the Ice, making 21 saves, while Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin was good on 25 of 28 attempts.
The Ice (8-36-4-0) finish out January on the road, as they visit the Red Deer Rebels (31-15-1-2) Friday before opening a home-and-home series with the Edmonton Oil Kings (19-22-6-1) Sunday a t Rexall Place.
Next home action for the Kootenay Ice comes Feb. 2 on 2-for-1 Tuesday at Western Financial Place.
Daily Townsman Three Stars (Friday):
1) #2 Jason Fram, Spokane Chiefs (2G, 2A, plus-4)2) #27 Presten Kopeck, Spokane Chiefs (1G, 2A)3) #16 Shane Allan, Kootenay Ice (1G, plus-2)
Spokane Chiefs 7 at Kootenay Ice 6 (OT – Jan. 22)
Post-game interview audio (Jan. 22)
Kootenay Ice 1 at Spokane Chiefs 3 (Jan. 23)