KENNEWICK, WA – Just over a minute into overtime, Mitch Holmberg scored his second OT game-winner this post-season, as the visiting Spokane Chiefs (5-2-0, 10 pts) slipped past the Tri-City Americans (4-0-1, 8 pts) 3-2 in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semi-Finals series in front of 4,351 fans at the Toyota Center.
With the win, the Chiefs earned their fifth straight win while taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Meanwhile, the Americans dropped their first playoff game this season in just the 2nd-shortest overtime playoff game in franchise history.
Much has been said about the dramatic post-season history between the two division rivals, and Game 1 lived up to the storied past. And, eight minutes into the 1st period, it was Tri-City that got the hometown faithful on their feet. From the left point, Justin Feser let a shot go that got redirected out in front by Brendan Shinnimin. Shinnimin tipped the shot over the glove of Eric Williams, putting the Americans on top 1-0.
But, the story of the night was Tri-City’s inability to put the Chiefs away on the power play. Spokane handed the Americans three power plays in the 1st period, and three more in the 2nd, but managed to hold them to just one goal.
Meanwhile, coming of their sixth penalty kill, which included an 11-second 5-on-3 Tri-City advantage, the Chiefs used that momentum to tie the game. Less than a minute after returning to full-strength, Darren Kramer dug the puck out of the corner and fired a shot off the side of the net. Mike Aviani, though, picked up the loose puck and beat Ty Rimmer to the far post, as he tucked it in to knot the game at 1. Then, just 2:39 into the 3rd period, Kramer was able to knock a Mitch Holmberg shot past Rimmer, giving the Chiefs their first lead of the contest.
With 5:26 left in regulation, though, Tri-City answered back when Mason Wilgosh tied the game at 2. Following up on his own rebound, Wilgosh watched his second effort glance off Williams and into the net. Then, with 3:48 left in the period, the Americans received their 7th power play, providing a golden opportunity to take the late lead. But, despite quality chances, Williams and the Chiefs’ defense stymied the Americans, sending the game into overtime.
But, just 66 seconds into the extra session, Mitch Topping’s shot was blocked by Holmberg, who then skated in as part of a 3-on-1 breakaway. Electing to shoot, Holmberg fired a blast inside the near post, ending the game with his 7th goal of the post-season.
Williams, who turned aside 30 of the 32 shots he faced, picked up his 5th win of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Rimmer’s 35 saves were not enough as he was tagged with his first loss this post-season. Tri-City finished the night 1-for-7 on the power play, but was a perfect 3-of-3 on the penalty kill.
The Americans will need to have short memories, as they regroup and prepare for Game 2 vs. the Chiefs tomorrow at Toyota Center. Game time for Saturday’s contest is 7:05 p.m. Dating back to the regular season, the visiting team has won 6 of the last 7 match-ups, as Tri-City looks to reverse that trend and even up the series. Meanwhile, the 5th-seeded Chiefs will be gunning for a 2-0 lead before the series shifts back to Spokane. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, including online at ticketmaster.com, the Toyota Center box office, or all Fred Meyer outlets. The game will be broadcast live on KVEW-TV’s My Network, starting at 7:00 p.m. The game will also be aired live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Bank Warm-up Show at 6:45 p.m.
With 2 points tonight, Brendan Shinnimin extended his point streak to 28 games as well as became just the 3rd Americans player to ever surpass 50 career playoff points. Shinnimin (51) joins Kruise Reddick (57) and Daymond Langkow (59) on that list. Shinnimin also has 5 multi-point games in his first 5 games this post-season…Tonight’s game, at 66 seconds, tied the franchise record for 2nd shortest overtime playoff game. The record is 45 seconds, set back on April 9, 2008 in a 3-2 win over Seattle.
Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Mike Aviani, Spokane
2, Ty Rimmer, Tri-City