KENNEWICK, WA – It had been three weeks to the day since the hometown faithful got to see their Americans at home. And they were treated to a heck of a contest between two of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Justin Feser scored the game-winner 1:25 into overtime as the Tri-City Americans (16-6-0-0, 32 pts) held off a third-period rally by the Kamloops Blazers (14-6-1-0, 29 pts) to earn a 3-2 win in front of 5,408 boisterous fans at the Toyota Center. With the win, Tri-City, winners of six of their last seven, improved to 8-2 on home ice. Meanwhile, the Blazers snapped their two-game winning streak and have now lost in their last five trips to Kennewick.
The Americans quick-strike offense took control of the opening period, notching two goals while out-chancing the Blazers 14 to 4 through the first 20 minutes. Seven and half minutes into the game, and while playing 5-on-3, Patrick Holland set-up Adam Hughesman in the slot, who notched his team-leading 15th goal of the year. Just 30 seconds later, Malte Strömwall forced a turnover from Bronson Maschmeyer, and then took off all alone on goaltender Cole Cheveldave. Strömwall eventually slipped the puck between Cheveldave’s pads, recording his 7th goal of the season and putting Tri-City on top by 2.
From start to finish, penalties marred Saturday’s contest, with both squads combining for 80 penalty minutes and 12 power play opportunities.
And, only 2:25 into the third period, the Blazers notched a power play marker of their own, pulling back to within one. From behind the net, Brendan Ranford got Ty Rimmer to commit to his wrap-around attempt before feeding the puck to Chase Schaber in the right circle. Schaber then connected on his 7th goal of the season, making it a 2-1 game.
Then, with 6:32 left to play, the Blazers got a fortunate bounce that knotted the game. From inside the slot, Matt Needham flung a shot on goal, only to have it kick off the skate of Tri-City defender Michal Plutnar and past a startled Rimmer.
Tensions finally boiled over in the final two minutes of the third, with both teams taking three off-setting penalties to set the stage for a 3-on-3 overtime. Tri-City, though, looked across to see their three 20-year-olds, and two of their three leading scorers, in the box. But, the Americans’ depth came through early into the extra session.
Moving into the Tri-City zone, Feser worked the puck free from the Blazers’ forward and took off on a 2-on-1 with Derek Ryckman. Ryckman wound up taking a shot, but Cheveldave could not control the rebound, and Feser was there to capitalize. For Feser, it was his 9th goal of the season and the second overtime game-winner of his career.
Rimmer finished the night with 22 saves on 24 shots, earning his fourth straight win while improving to 10-3 overall. Meanwhile, Cheveldave allowed three goals on 36 shots to drop just his third game of the season. Both teams finished 1-for-6 on the power play.
With a busy holiday week coming up, Tri-City will now turn their attention to their U.S. Division rivals, the Portland Winterhawks (14-8-1-1), who visit the Toyota Center on Wednesday, November 23. Game time is 7:05 p.m. It will be the fourth meeting of the year between the two division rivals, but the first match-up in over six weeks. Tri-City leads the 10-game season series 3-0. Portland, meanwhile, comes in having won six of their last seven and now leads the Western Conference in goals scored. 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 also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 6:45 p.m.
Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Justin Feser, Tri-City
2, Ty Rimmer, Tri-City
3, Malte Strömwall, Tri-City