Americans take showdown with Blades 5-2Posted: Updated:
By Dan Mulhausen
KENNEWICK, Wash. – Originally billed as a CHL Top-10 match-up before Tri-City was dropped from this week's rankings, the Americans and Blades gave the spectators at the Toyota Center a contest worthy of the hype.
Justin Feser – with two goals and an assist – and Ty Rimmer, who stopped 33 shots, helped guide the Tri-City Americans (8-4-0-0, 16 pts) to a 5-2 upset over the #4-ranked Saskatoon Blades (7-3-0-1, 15 pts) in front of 3,807 fans at the Toyota Center. With the win, the Americans improved to 6-1 at home and snapped a three-game losing skid to the Blades. Meanwhile, Saskatoon has now dropped three straight games, all to U.S. Division teams, after starting their western swing with a win over Everett.
In a back-and-forth game from start to finish, Tri-City jumped on top in the second half of the first period. With 6:14 left in the period, Patrick Holland put himself in great position to capitalize on a loose puck and grab his first goal of the season. After Feser tried to feed Jordan Messier in front, the puck trickled off Messier's stick and sat at the near post. Before the Blades' Andrey Makarov could get to the post, Holland was there to tuck it across the line for the 1-0 lead.
Saskatoon, though, responded 1:17 later, as Lukas Sutter was able to breakout defenseman Dalton Thrower. Thrower came in all alone on Tri-City's Ty Rimmer, eventually slipping the puck past the sprawling netminder inside the near post and tying the game at 1.
But, another quick response, gave Tri-City the lead for good. Just 1:31 later, and on the power play, Feser sent a drive on net from the mid-point, which appeared to deflect off a Blades' defenseman and between the pads of Makarov.
Then, 3:40 into the second period, rookie Brian Williams put the Americans on top by two. After newly acquired defenseman Derek Ryckman lost control of the puck in the slot, Williams was there to corral the loose puck on the doorstep and slide it under Makarov's pads for his third goal of the season.
The Blades, though, would not go away, pulling back to within one with 7:13 left in the second. Twenty eight seconds into a power play, Rimmer made two great saves, but could not get up off the ice during the ensuing scramble in front of the net. Blades defenseman, Zach Hodder finally connected on the third try, lifting a shot over the pile for his first goal of the season.
With two minutes left to play in regulation, and still clinging to their one-goal lead, Tri-City finally gave themselves some breathing room. Pressing deep in the Americans zone looking for the equalizer, the Blades were caught pinching too far inside, which allowed Zachary Yuen to breakout Holland. From there, Holland rushed the puck up the ice, then sent a last moment cross-ice pass to Feser, who redirected the puck past Makarov.
Down by two, Saskatoon coach Lorne Molleken opted to pull Makarov to see if he could catch lightning in a bottle. However, just 38 seconds into the extra-attacker, Adam Hughesman was able to break out Connor Rankin, who strolled into the Blades' end with Brendan Shinnimin in tow. Rankin unselfishly passed the puck over to Shinnimin, who dumped the puck into the empty net to cap the scoring in the contest.
Rimmer, shaking off his rough outing in Everett on Sunday, finished with 33 saves on 35 shots to improve to 6-2 on the year and 4-0 at home. Meanwhile, matching a career-best 36 saves, Makarov was tagged for just his second loss while facing a career-high 40 shots. Tri-City finished the night 1-for-4 on the power play, while Saskatoon went 1-of-3 on the man-advantage.
The Americans, already on the bus, are headed north for a doubleheader weekend with the B.C. Division's Prince George Cougars (3-6-0-1). Game 1 is set for Friday, October 21 at 7:00 p.m. at CN Centre. The Americans and Cougars split their four-game season series last year, as Tri-City finished with a 2-1-0-1 record. However, the Americans have had a good run vs. Prince George as of late, going 20-3-0-1 since 2005-06. Meanwhile, the Cougars, who come in having lost three straight, have won just three times at home vs. Tri-City in their last 12 meetings.