Americans Drop Regular Season Finale to Chiefs 3-2
KENNEWICK, WA (ISN) – Brenden Kichton tallied a goal and an assist, while Mac Engel kicked aside 30 shots, including all 17 in the 3rd period, as the visiting Spokane Chiefs (38-25-5-4, 85 pts) wrapped up the regular season with a 3-2 win over the Tri-City Americans (50-18-2-2, 104 pts) in front of 6,102 fans inside the Toyota Center.
With the win, the Chiefs snapped a 4-game losing skid vs. Tri-City, as they look towards their upcoming playoff series with Vancouver. Meanwhile, combined with Edmonton’s win over Red Deer, Tri-City was unsuccessful in their attempt to bring home a second Scotty Munro Trophy, awarded to the team with the best regular season record in the WHL, to go along with their division title they clinched last night.
For Tri-City, Saturday night got off to a rough start and, as the game wore on, never really could shake it off. The Chiefs scored inside the first two minutes of the 1st period, after Mitch Holmberg connected off a cross-ice pass from Reid Gow, to put the Americans behind the 8-ball early.
The Americans, though, pulled even before the 5-minute mark of the 1st period. While on the power play, Brendan Shinnimin sent a pass over to Patrick Holland in the high slot. From there, Holland’s shot found its way through traffic and between the pads of Engel, to continue both players’ point streaks. Shinnimin’s point streak now sits at a franchise-best 23 games, while Holland increased his to 20.
But, with 7 minutes left in the period, and following a face-off win by Mike Aviani inside the Tri-City zone, the puck found its way over to Kichton, whose shot from the right circle eluded Rimmer, giving the Chiefs a 2-1 advantage headed into the first intermission.
By the midway point of the 2nd, however, Tri-City had pulled even again, this time off the stick of recently returned forward, Jesse Mychan. Following up on a rebound of a Justin Feser shot, Mychan slid a backhander under the pads of Engel, giving him 2 points in his first 2 games back from injury. Mychan had missed the previous 15 games after suffering a hand injury back on February 14.
With the game still knotted at 2, Tri-City unloaded 17 shots on Engel throughout the 3rd period, as they looked to pull ahead in front of the hometown faithful. However, it was the Chiefs that took the next, and final, lead of the game. At the 8:31 mark of the period, and just six seconds into a power play, Dylan Walchuk was credited with his 10th goal of the season after the video goal judge ruled that Walchuk did not kick the puck into the net, but rather it simply ricocheted off his skate and past a startled Ty Rimmer.
Rimmer was later pulled for the final 1:18, and the Americans generated some chances down the stretch, but Engel made the clutch saves to preserve the 3-2 win. Engel, after stopping 30 of 32, finishes the season by picking up win #28. Meanwhile, Rimmer collected 22 saves on 25 shots in the loss. Tri-City finished the night 1-for-5 on the power play, while Spokane went 1-of-3 on the man-advantage.
Although the loss was disappointing, the 2011-12 Americans have plenty to hang their hat on. In addition to becoming just the second-ever Tri-City team to win 50 games in a season, and winning a fourth division banner in five seasons, the individual accolades were just as impressive. Barring a 16-point night by Portland’s Ty Ratite on Sunday, Shinnimin will win the Bob Clark Trophy as the WHL’s Leading Scorer, joining Raymond Longbow (1994-95) as the only other Tri-City player to win the award. Meanwhile, Rimmer finishes the regular season with the WHL’s best goals against average (2.43) and save percentage (0.922) to go along with his 31 wins. Additionally, although his 6-game point streak ended tonight, Adam Hughesman ends an illustrious Tri-City career ranked 3rd all-time in goals scored (140) and games played (338), in addition to finishing 4th in points (350) and assists (210). Finally, the hard-working team captain, Mason Wilgosh, finishes his Americans career with 112 points and ranked 9th all-time in games played (278).
With one game left on the WHL schedule tomorrow, the outcome of the Seattle vs. Portland game will determine who Tri-City will play to open the 2012 WHL Playoffs. If Seattle wins, who is currently 2 points out of a playoff spot, they will force a play-in game with Everett to see who will claim the #8 seed. However, if Seattle loses, Everett will advance to the post-season and face-off with the Americans. Check the Americans’ website, www.amshockey.com, for details as they get sorted out. Regardless of their opponent, the First Round series match-up will kick-off with Games 1 and 2 on Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24 at the Toyota Center. Game times are 7:05 p.m. 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 Bank Warm-up Show at 6:45 p.m.
Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Brenden Kichton, Spokane
2, Mac Engel, Spokane
3, Patrick Holland, Tri-City