– A late flurry nearly saw Tri-City climb out of a 3-goal deficit.  But, it was too little, too late for the Americans on Friday night.

Four different players scored and Mac Carruth stopped 30 shots, as the visiting Portland Winterhawks (36-15-2-1, 75 pts) skated away with a 4-2 win over the Tri-City Americans (37-14-1-1, 76 pts) in front of 4,613 fans at the Toyota Center. 

With the win, Portland won their second straight game vs. Tri-City after dropping their first five meetings with their division rivals.  And, the win also pushed the ‘Hawks to within one point of Tri-City for the division lead.  Meanwhile, Tri-City dropped their second consecutive contest while being handed just their fifth loss on home ice this season.

Despite two early power plays, Tri-City seemed to stumble out of the gates, allowing Portland to compile  a 14 to 8 shot advantage in the period.  The play of rookie goaltender Eric Comrie, however, kept the game close.  But, with 3:40 left in the first, Sven Bartschi connected for his 19th goal of the season to give the ‘Hawks a 1-0 lead.

The clubs combined for another 22 shots in the second period, but neither could find an answer to the opposing netminders, as it remained a 1-0 Portland advantage headed to the third.

The third period, though, saw plenty of action.  However, in the early going, it included the ‘Hawks adding to their lead.

Just 2:52 into the period, and 22 seconds after Portland killed off a 5-minute power play, Chase De Leo came out of the penalty box in time to grab a pass from Cam Reid.  From the left circle, De Leo fired a shot off the post and past Comrie for his 10th marker on the year.  Then, seven and a half minutes later, and on their own power play, Portland’s Ty Rattie used his speed to slip around the Tri-City defense and race across the crease, in the process lifting a backhander over Comrie to make it 3-0.

Seemingly left for dead, Tri-City rebounded in the waning minutes of the third period.  With 5:16 left in regulation, Justin Feser followed up on a Justin Hamonic rebound, breaking Mac Carruth’s shutout bid.  Then, less than four minutes later, Brendan Shinnimin put back a Patrick Holland rebound for his 32nd of the year.  And, with 1:35 left to play, the Americans quickly found themselves trailing by just one.

Coach Jim Hiller elected to pull Comrie once play resumed but, with 49 seconds left to play, Brad Ross iced the game with an empty netter for the ‘Hawks.  Although that wrapped up the scoring, things got testy inside the final minute, as both Lukas Walter and Taylor Leier were assessed 10-minute misconduct penalties and each team’s head coach was given a 2-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

In the end, Carruth stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced to earn his 33rd win of the season.  Meanwhile, Comrie, who had stopped 24 of 25 entering the 3rd, finished with 33 saves on 36 shots, both of which were the second-highest totals of his young career.  Tri-City finished 0-for-4 on the power play, while Portland went 1-of-3 on the man-advantage.

After facing two of the conference’s top three teams back-to-back this week, the Americans will now hit the road for a Saturday night showdown with their arch rivals, the Spokane Chiefs (31-16-4-3).  Game time is 7:05 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Arena.  Tri-City currently leads the 12-game season series 4-3, but the Chiefs have taken the previous two contests.  Spokane enters Saturday having won 4 straight home games.  Meanwhile, Tri-City will be looking to snap their season-high 3-game road losing skid.  The game will be aired locally on KVEW-TV’s My Network, starting at 7:00 p.m.  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, Sven Bartschi, Portland

2, Mac Carruth, Portland

3, Eric Comrie, Tri-City