Dan Mulhausen

SPOKANE, WA – When they have decided games, the Americans’ top-5 ranked special teams have earned their fair share of victories this year. But, in the midst one of their toughest road trips of the season, even the best get the hiccups.

Dominik Uher recorded 3 points and Dylan Walchuk scored for the second time in his third WHL game, as the host Spokane Chiefs (22-13-3-3, 50 pts) earned a hard-fought 5-3 win over the visiting Tri-City Americans (33-9-0-0, 66 pts) in front of 9,667 fans at Veterans Memorial Arena. With the win, the Chiefs have earned at least a point in their last six games, while picking up their second win in the season series with Tri-City. Meanwhile, the Americans fell to 2-2 on their 5-game road trip against the Conference’s best, which wraps up in Portland on Monday.

Tri-City did exactly what they needed to do to start Saturday’s game by scoring first. Just 4:17 into the contest, Jordan Messier’s rebound kicked out to Drydn Dow in the right circle, who had a near empty net to record his second goal of the season.

On the every next shift, though, the Chiefs set the tone by countering with Uher’s first of two goals on the night. Only 31 seconds after Dow’s goal, and following up on a Brenden Kichton rebound, Uher shoveled the puck past Ty Rimmer, knotting the game at 1. Then, just over a minute later, Spokane made it 2-1 following Todd Fiddler’s wrap-around attempt. And, after that quick two-goal outburst, the Americans played catch-up the rest of the night.

But, the road weary Americans fought back twice, tying the game at 2 with under two minutes to play in the first. Taking a feed from Mason Wilgosh, Brendan Shinnimin snapped a shot on Mac Engel from the right circle, beating the Spokane netminder inside the far post.

At 6:49 of the second period, and on their first power play of the game, however, the Chiefs converted for just the second time in their last seven games when Blake Gal’s shot from the right circle surprised Rimmer.

Again, though, Tri-City found a response. Just past the midway point of the second, defenseman Sam Grist let a blast go from the point that deflected off the skate of Kichton and slipped between the pads of Engel. For Grist, it was his first career WHL goal and could not have come at a better time for the Americans, who tied it at 3 headed into the final period of play.

Seven minutes into the third and back on the power play, though, the Chiefs connected again, this time off the stick of Walchuk, who buried Kichton’s rebound.

With only 3:06 left in regulation, Walchuk took a hooking penalty that put the Americans on their fifth man-advantage opportunity of the game. And, with Rimmer pulled for the extra attacker, Tri-City nearly knotted the game a third time, as both Shinnimin and Jesse Mychan just missed on golden opportunities.

In the end, though, with Rimmer still pulled and 24 seconds left on Walchuk’s penalty, Uher was able to block a shot then score the short-handed empty netter, sealing Tri-City’s fate.

Rimmer, who has suffered two of his six losses this year inside Veterans Memorial Arena, finished with 26 saves on 30 shots in defeat. Meanwhile, Engel used 31 saves to improve to 6-0 in his last six starts. The Americans ended the night 0-for-5 on the power play, while Spokane scored twice on four man-advantage opportunities against Tri-City’s top-ranked penalty killing units.

Following a day off on Sunday, the Americans will look to cap their road trip against the top 4 teams chasing them in the conference standings with a win against another division rival, the Portland Winterhawks (29-12-2-1). Game time on Monday, January 16 is a special 3:00 p.m. start at the Rose Garden. Portland enters Monday having won three straight, 9 of their last 10 overall and a franchise-best 16 consecutive games at home. Meanwhile, Tri-City currently leads the 10-game season series 5-0 and is looking to secure their sixth straight series win vs. the ‘Hawks. Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL Live, at Kimo’s, the Americans’ home away from home, starting at 3:00 p.m. The game will also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 2:45 p.m.

Applebee’s 3 Stars:

1, Steven Kuhn, Spokane

2, Brenden Kichton, Spokane

3, Dylan Walchuk, Spokane