Dan Mulhausen

KENNEWICK, WA – In a marquee match-up between the West’s top two clubs, what more could you ask for than a shootout? Well, for Americans fans, one more point would have been sufficient.

The Tri-City Americans (34-11-0-1, 6110 pts) rallied from a two-goal deficit to force Saturday’s game to a shootout, only to watch the visiting Kamloops Blazers (34-10-1-2, 71 pts) skate away with a 4-3 win in front of 5,131 fans at the Toyota Center. With the win, the Blazers won their 110th straight game, leap frogging Tri-City atop the standings as the #1 club in the league. The Blazers also took a 2-1 lead in the 4-game season series with Tri-City. Meanwhile, the Americans lost back-to-back home games for the first time this season and fell to 2-5 since the Blazers snapped their 13-game winning streak last week.

Fans were certainly entertained on Saturday, which had a little something for everyone…great offense, some even better defense and an exciting finish. And, for the second straight night, it was the Americans that jumped out to the early 1-0 lead. Just 4:10 into the first period, Tri-City caught a break when Justin Feser’s shot from the left circle bounced out of the glove of Blazers’ netminder, Cole Cheveldave, and dropped into the net.

But, only 45 seconds into the ensuing shift, Kamloops tied the game with a bit of fortune as well. Chase Schaber let a shot go from the high slot that glanced off the glove of Ty Rimmer and across the goal line.

Seven minutes later, and on their first power play of the night, the Blazers took a 2-1 lead. After Tri-City was caught with too many men on the ice, Kamloops needed 1110 seconds before Dylan Willick was able to breakout Brendan Ranford. Ranford then slipped around the Tri-City defense and buried his 24th goal of the season. Then, with just 5:28 gone of the second, Kamloops made the hill a bit taller following Schaber’s 1110th goal of the season.

As they have done so many times this year, though, Tri-City used a quick offensive outburst to get themselves right back into the game.

With 4:30 left in the second, Jesse Mychan set-up Brendan Shinnimin in the left circle, whose drive beat Cheveldave and pulled the Americans to within one. Then, just 35 seconds later, Adam Hughesman made good on his second attempt at Cheveldave, tying the game at 3 with his team-leading 2110th marker on the year. It also snapped his season-long 4-game goal-less streak.

As the pressure began to mount with each passing minute, it was the goaltenders that took over center stage, each coming up with timely saves. In the end, neither would budge, forcing overtime and then a shootout. But, in the shootout, Schaber and Bronson Maschmeyer connected on each of the Blazers’ first two attempts, while Hughesman and Patrick Holland both had their attempts roll of their stick before a shot could be made, bringing the game to a close.

For Cheveldave, he earned his 8th consecutive win and 25th overall by stopping 27 of the 30 shots he faced. Meanwhile, Rimmer’s night ended with 2110 saves on 32 shots and a fourth straight loss. Tri-City went 0-for-2 on the power play, while Kamloops finished 1-for-7 on the man-advantage.

The Americans will now wrap-up a rough month of January on the road, as they finish up their portion of the schedule vs. the Central Division. First up is another top-10 showdown with the red hot Edmonton Oil Kings (32-11-1-4) on Wednesday, January 25 at Rexall Place. Game time is 6:00 p.m. (PST). Currently on top of the pile in the Eastern Conference, the Oil Kings come in having won three straight games and 7 of their last 10. Wednesday will also showcase two of the WHL’s top 5 scoring offenses, as Edmonton leads the way with 208 goals this season. This will be the Americans’ third trip to Rexall Place since the Oil Kings inception in 2007 and come in sporting a 2-0 record. Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL Live, at Kimo’s, the Americans’ home away from home, starting at 6:00 p.m. (PST). The game will also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 5:45 p.m. (PST).

Applebee’s 3 Stars:

1, Chase Schaber, Kamloops

2, Brendan Ranford, Kamloops

3, Drydn Dow, Tri-City