by Ben Tole
January 19, 2014, Kennewick, WA (ISN) – Eric Comrie made 43 saves, recording his second shutout of the season, as the Tri-City Americans (22-21-2-2, 48 pts.) defeated the Vancouver Giants (23-16-5-3, 54 pts.) 4-0 Sunday evening at the Toyota Center.
It was the seventh career shutout for the 18-year-old net minder, who lowered his goals against average to 2.42. His 0.927 save percentage now ranks second among WHL goaltenders.
The win gave the Americans a split in the four-game season series against Vancouver, moving the team within six points of the Giants for seventh place in the Western Conference. The two points also increased the Americans’ lead over the Prince George Cougars (17-24-2-5, 41 pts.) to seven points.
Tri-City spent most of the first 12 minutes in its own defensive zone, getting out shot 12-4 during that time. But, the Americans capitalized on its opportunities, scoring two goals on its first four shots.
Beau McCue scored shorthanded at 7:28 to open the scoring, taking a pass from Lucas Nickles on a 2-on-1 opportunity before snapping it past Peyton Lee. Then, at 12:01, Brian Williams gave the Americans a 2-0 lead when he scored on the rebound off of Riley Hillis’ initial shot from the point. The Americans continued to put the pressure on the Giants in the back half of the first period, out shooting Vancouver 10-5 in the final 8:35 of the opening frame.
After Tri-City narrowly missed scoring on the door step, the Giants cleared the puck to the point. But, Parker Wotherspoon held the puck in the zone and fired it on goal, beating Lee for his first WHL goal at 15:39. The goal chased Lee from the game after allowing three goals on 12 shots. He was replaced by 16-year-old rookie, Ryan Kubic, who was appearing in his first WHL game.
The Americans put the young goaltender to the test early in the second with a 2-on-1 opportunity and a Nickles breakaway in the first minute of the period. But, Kubic kept his team within three goals.
The Americans were forced to kill off four penalties in the second period , holding the Giants’ 11th ranked power play scoreless on five opportunities. The Giants outshot the Americans 26-10 in the final 40 minutes of play, but a strong defensive effort by Tri-City minimized Vancouver’s quality scoring chances.
The Giants had their chances to break the shut out late, but it would be Comrie’s night, as he shut down the Giants down the stretch. Any hope the Giants had of making a late comeback in the third period were put to rest when Jessey Astles scored his sixth goal of the season at 11:47, giving the Americans a 4-0 lead.
The Americans continue its four-game home stand with a game against the Moose Jaw Warriors (13-25-3-4, 33 pts.) Wednesday night at the Toyota Center for a 7:05 p.m. faceoff. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, including the Toyota Center box office, all Fred Meyer outlets, or online at ticketmaster.com
Jack In Box Three Stars
1) Eric Comrie, Tri-City
2) Beau McCue, Tri-City
3) Parker Wotherspoon, Tri-City