KENNEWICK, WA (ISN) – Brad Ross and Taylor Leier each scored twice, while Oliver Gabriel set up three, as the visiting Portland Winterhawks (45-15-3-1, 94 pts) escaped the Toyota Center with a 6-4 win over the Tri-City Americans (45-16-1-2, 93 pts) in front of 6,121 fans.
With the win, the ‘Hawks picked up their 11th win in their last 12 games and reclaim the top spot in the U.S. Division and Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Americans dropped their fourth straight game to the ‘Hawks while watching their 7-game winning streak come to an end.
The two offensive heavyweights went toe-to-toe throughout the game, with Portland taking the first lead of the game. With 7:34 left in the 1st period, Brendan Leipsic kept the puck in the Tri-City zone, before feeding Ross in the left circle. Ross then skated in front of Ty Rimmer, slipping a shot between his pads, for his first of the night.
Less than four minutes later, though, the Americans electrified the crowd with their 15th short-handed goal of the season. Following a Patrick Holland takeaway in the offensive zone, Justin Feser lifted a shot over Mac Carruth, tying the game at 1. Then, just 1:42 later, Feser connected again, this time from the high slot, recording his 34th goal of the season to give the Americans a 2-1 lead.
The lead carried over into the 2nd period, before Portland rolled off three goals in a 6-minute span to regain control. First, 5:22 into the frame, Chase De Leo tacked on his 13th of the season to knot the game at 2. Then, 1:25 later, and on the power play, Sven Bartschi untied it after he slipped behind the Americans’ defense. Finally, just past the midway point of the 2nd, Ross knocked back his own rebound, making it a 4-2 game.
Down, but not out, the Americans returned serve, scoring twice inside the final seven minutes to even the game. Less than a minute after Ross’ second, Adam Hughesman took a Brendan Shinnimin feed out of the corner and beat Carruth from the left circle. Then, with 4:18 left in the period, a screen in front of Carruth allowed Zachary Yuen’s shot from the point to slip past unnoticed, making it 4-all.
But, only 3:23 into the 3rd period, a defensive lapse by Tri-City allowed Gabriel to create a 2-on-1 chance the other way. Jumping into the play, Leier took Gabriel’s pass and beat Rimmer for the eventual game-winner. Tri-City would come close to tying it multiple times down the stretch but, with Rimmer pulled for the extra attacker, Leier iced the game with his 11th of the season into an empty net.
Rimmer finished with 33 saves on 38 shots, falling to 14-2-0-1 this season inside the Toyota Center. Meanwhile, Carruth allowed 4 goals on 26 shots, but notched win #40 on the season. Tri-City went 0-for-4 on the power play, while Portland finished 1-of-3 on the man-advantage.
Now, before looking ahead to Sunday’s rematch, the Americans must first travel across the mountains tomorrow, March 3, for a meeting with the Everett Silvertips (18-37-1-8). Game time is 7:05 p.m. at Comcast Arena. It will be the third time in the last two weeks that the two division rivals have meet. The Americans come in having won 4 of their last 5 road games, while Everett remains locked in a four-way battle for the final two playoff spots in the West. Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL Live, at Kimo’s, the Americans’ home away from home, 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.
By playing tonight, Adam Hughesman moved passed Ian McDonald (329) for 3rd all-time on the Americans’ games played list. Assuming he plays in the final 8 games of the regular season, Hughesman will finish with 338 WHL games, one game shy of Dylan Stanley in 2nd…With an assist tonight, Brendan Shinnimin moved into 5th on Tri-City’s all-time assists list, passing Terry Degner (195). The assist also continued his point streak, which now sits at 15 games…With 2 goals tonight, Justin Feser tied Ben Kilgour (233) for 13th on the Americans’ all-time points list…Tonight’s crowd (6,121) was the 2nd-largest Toyota Center crowd in the Americans’ history. The record is 6,150, set back on Nov. 24, 1988 against Portland. It is the 3rd 6,000+ crowd this season, all of which currently rank inside the top-5 all-time Toyota Center crowds.
Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Brad Ross, Portland
2, Justin Feser, Tri-City
3, Taylor Leier, Portland