LETHBRIDGE, AB – Away from the Toyota Center the past two weeks, the Americans are making themselves feel right at home in other team’s buildings.
Backed by Jordan Messier’s 3-point night, the Tri-City Americans (15-5-0-0, 30 pts) capped their first-half swing through the Central Division with three straight wins, defeating the host Lethbridge Hurricanes (3-17-0-1, 7 pts) 7-3 in front of 3,149 fans at the Enmax Centre. With the win, Tri-City improved their overall winning streak to 5 games while notching their sixth consecutive road victory. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes lost their fourth straight game and have now lost their last four meetings with Tri-City.
Coming off two marquee wins over ranked opponents, Tri-City used that momentum to jump on the Hurricanes early. Only 3:41 into the contest, Lucas Nickles was able to redirect a blast from Zachary Yuen, past ‘Canes netminder Damien Ketlo, to notch his first WHL goal and put Tri-City up 1-0.
After an additional seven and a half minutes passed, and on the power play, Justin Feser ripped a shot from the mid-point off the right post and in, giving the Americans a 2-goal lead with his 8th of the year.
However, four minutes later, and playing four-aside, Lethbridge cut their deficit in half. A costly Tri-City turnover in their own end quickly turned into an odd-man rush for the Hurricanes. Juraj Bezuch set up Jay Merkley, whose attempt glanced off Tri-City goaltender Eric Comrie and into the net.
Then, just 2:21 into the second period, and on the man-advantage, the Hurricanes knotted the game at 2. While playing 4-on-3, another Tri-City turnover led to points for Lethbridge. From behind their own net, the Americans saw Brody Sutter pick-off an errant clearing pass in the slot and quickly fire a shot past a surprised Comrie. But, it proved to be as close as the ‘Canes could get on Saturday.
Four minutes later, Tri-City answered back behind a great individual play by Messier. As part of a 3-on-2 breakaway, Messier slipped behind the Lethbridge net to corral a Brian Williams shot that went off the glass. From behind the net, Messier wrapped around and tucked the puck in at the far post, putting the Americans on top for good. Then, at the midway point of the period, and back on the power play, Messier found Zachary Yuen back door at the near post, who gave Tri-City a 4-2 lead.
With 7:12 left in the second though, and on the power play, Lethbridge’s Nick Buonassisi was awarded a penalty shot after he was slashed while breaking in on Comrie. Buonassisi shelved his backhand attempt, recording his 5th goal of the season but, more importantly, pulled the ‘Canes back to within one at 4-3.
The Americans, though, completely dominated the final period of play, connecting three times on 18 attempts in addition to not allowing a single shot on goal by Lethbridge over the final 20 minutes.
Less than five minutes into the third and following a face-off win by Patrick Holland in the Lethbridge zone, Messier was able to deflect a shot by defenseman Mitch Topping, past Ketlo, to make it 5-3. Then, with 4:02 left in regulation, Malte StrÃ¶mwall was rewarded for his hustle by taking advantage of an Adam Hughesman rebound just outside the crease. Finally, with 2:21 left in regulation and playing shorthanded, Holland lifted a backhander just under the crossbar, giving him his 4th goal of the season and third goal in as many games.
Comrie, facing a season-low 16 shots in 60 minutes, improved to 6-2 behind a 13 save effort. Meanwhile, Ketlo allowed a season-high 7 goals on 36 shots in the loss. The Americans finished the night by going 2-of-8 on the power play, while the ‘Canes were 2-of-7 on the man-advantage including Buonassisi’s marker on the penalty shot.
Tri-City will now look to sweep their three-week, five-game road trip next Friday, November 18 when they travel to Kent for their first meeting of the year against the Seattle Thunderbirds (7-11-0-0). Game time is 7:35 p.m. at ShoWare Center. After losing five straight, Seattle comes in having won 2 of their last 3 but are just 2-5 at home this season. Meanwhile, after sweeping last year’s 9-game season series, Tri-City will be looking for its 11th consecutive win vs. the T’birds. Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL Live, at Kimo’s, the Americans’ home away from home, starting at 7:35 p.m. The game will also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 7:20 p.m.
Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Zachary Yuen, Tri-City
2, Patrick Holland, Tri-City
3, Cam Braes, Lethbridge