CALGARY, AB – Some reunions you remember forever…others you just want to forget. It’s safe to say that, for the Americans, Sunday’s game in Calgary falls into the latter category.
Two goals 29 seconds apart in the second period sparked the red hot Calgary Hitmen (31-17-2-1, 65 pts) to a 4-1 win over the visiting Tri-City Americans (35-12-1-1, 72 pts) in front of 11,236 fans at Scotiabank Saddledome. With the win, the Hitmen have now won 14 of their last 15, including six straight. Meanwhile, for Tri-City, the loss was their second straight road set-back and dropped them to 3-5-1-1 since the snapping of their franchise-best 13-game winning streak.
Making their first trip back to the Saddledome since their Game 5 loss in the 2010 WHL Finals, the Americans stemmed the tide against the Hitmen in the first period. Despite a 2-to-1 shot disadvantage, Ty Rimmer and the Americans’ defense turned aside all 12 shots faced through the first 20 minutes.
Even better, Tri-City took the 1-0 lead early into the second period. Just 4:21 into the period, Mitch Topping took the puck behind the Calgary net before feeding it out to Tyson Dallman. Dallman then found rookie Brian Williams, who flipped a shot past former Americans’ netminder Chris Driedger inside the right post, recording his 7th goal of the season.
But, a pivotal 29-second sequence late in the second provided all the life the Hitmen needed. While killing off an Adam Hughesman delay of game penalty and, with only 4 seconds left on the man-advantage, Calgary tied the game. After Calgary fired the puck into the zone, Rimmer played the puck behind the net and rimmed it out. But, unseen by Rimmer, his clearing pass hit off the shin of Calgary’s Brady Brassart and laid in the crease. Brassart dove at the loose puck, beating Rimmer back to the net, and knocked it across the goal line.
Then, on the ensuing shift, Collin Bowman corralled Greg Chase’s rebound in the slot. After pulling Rimmer out of the net, Bowman dished the puck out to Danny Gayle camped backdoor. From the bottom of the left circle, Gayle buried a near empty-netter to quickly make it a 2-1 lead.
From there, it was all downhill for the Hitmen, who outchanced the worn-down Americans 15 to 4 in the final period of play. Just minutes after killing off an abbreviated Victor Rask major penalty, Calgary returned offensively. At the midway point of the period, Cody Sylvester sent a long stretch pass out to Alex Gogolev, who broke in all alone on Rimmer. With Rimmer out to challenge, Gogolev blasted a shot over Rimmer’s shoulder, making it a 3-1 game. Finally, less than four minutes later, Chase Clayton capped the scoring with his 11th marker of the season.
The loss soured an otherwise solid record against the Central Division this season. Tri-City finishes the 2011-12 season with a 9-2-1-0 record vs. the Eastern Conference, including a 4-1-1-0 mark against the Central Division. However, the Saddledome continued to haunt the Americans, who have won just once in their last 9 visits to Calgary. With the loss, Tri-City fell to 3-8-0-0 with 1 tie all-time at the Saddledome.
Following a long, road-heavy month of January, the Americans will now get a week to rest and prepare for a doubleheader weekend inside the Toyota Center. First up is a Friday, February 3rd date with the Seattle Thunderbirds (18-27-1-1) on Fred Meyer Breast Cancer Awareness Night. Game time is 7:05 p.m. on the 7th annual pink ice affair. Seattle, which currently has dropped their last two games and six of their last seven, will host the Spokane Chiefs on Tuesday before making their way to Tri-City. Meanwhile, the Americans will be looking to snap their two-game skid on home ice. 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, Danny Gayle, Calgary
2, Alex Gogolev, Calgary
3, Brady Brassart, Calgary