KENNEWICK, WA – On Saturday night, the Americans wrapped up the 2011 portion of this year’s schedule by doing something no other Tri-City team has ever done…complete an undefeated month.
Patrick Holland scored once and chipped in three assists, while Justin Feser recorded a 3-point game to help guide the Tri-City Americans (29-7-0-0, 58 pts) past the rival Spokane Chiefs (17-12-2-3, 39 pts) 4-1 in front of a standing-room only crowd of 6,064 fans at the Toyota Center. With the win, Tri-City capped a perfect 10-0 month of December while, in the process, equaling the franchise’s longest-ever winning streak in a single season, which was set back in 1991. Meanwhile, the Chiefs dropped their first game since returning from the Winter Break, falling to 1-4 vs. Tri-City on the year.
In front of the 3rd-largest crowd in the Toyota Center’s history, Saturday’s contest was a tight-checking affair, where capitalizing on limited opportunities proved to be key.
And, at the 6:15 mark of the first period, Tri-City took advantage first. Following an Americans icing that brought the face-off back into the Tri-City zone, Holland won the ensuing face-off and was able to breakout Feser. Feser drove the puck into the corner, then fired a shot off that caromed off the pads of Spokane’s newly acquired goaltender, Eric Williams, and into the slot. Recognizing the play, defenseman Michal Plutnar jumped up from the right point and lifted a shot over Williams for his 4th goal of the season.
Five and a half minutes later, and on the penalty kill, Tri-City registered a short-handed goal to further electrify the building. After Feser blocked a Reid Gow’s shot from the point, he was able to corral the loose puck and feed it to Holland, who had already taken off down the ice. Holland then carried the puck in, made a nice move on Williams, and beat the goaltender at the near post for his second short-handed goal of the season and the 7th for Tri-City this season.
Just 31 seconds before the first intermission, though, the Chiefs pulled back to within one. The Americans twice failed to clear the puck out of their own zone, the second of which was kept in by Mitch Holmberg. Holmberg then found Marek Kalus, who recorded his 10th goal of the season and third in his last four games.
But, inside the final 24 seconds of the first period, Spokane took two penalties to put the Americans on a 5-on-3 man-advantage to start the second period. And, only 1:23 into the new frame, Jordan Messier knocked in his 10th of the season to put Tri-City back on top by two.
Finally, at the midway point of the third period, Feser capped the scoring after he stripped Brenden Kichton deep inside the Spokane zone, then knocked home his own rebound for his 18th goal of the season.
Meanwhile, in goal for Tri-City, Ty Rimmer put forth another quality start, stopping 16 of 17 to improve to 17-4 on the year and a perfect 6-0 in December. Meanwhile, Williams had a rough go in his Chiefs debut, finishing with 16 saves on 20 shots in the loss. The Americans finished the night 1-for-4 on the power play and were a perfect 6-of-6 on the penalty kill.
Tri-City will now rest up for what will be a busy month of January. First up, they will look to extend their home and overall winning streaks on Wednesday, January 4 when they play host to the East Division’s first-place Moose Jaw Warriors (24-10-3-1). Game time is 7:05 p.m. at Toyota Center. The Warriors, who play in Portland on Tuesday, have currently won three of their last four on the road and five of their last six overall. Tri-City, meanwhile, won last season’s lone meeting with Moose Jaw 6-3 and are currently riding a 5-game winning streak vs. the Warriors. 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, Patrick Holland, Tri-City
2, Ty Rimmer, Tri-City
3, Justin Feser, Tri-City