by Ben Tole
February 1, 2014, Red Deer, AB (ISN) –The Tri-City Americans (26-22-2-3, 57 pts.) jumped out of the gates with two first period goals to take a lead that it would never relinquish, defeating the Red Deer Rebels (27-22-0-3, 57 pts.) 4-2 Saturday night at the Enmax Centrium.
The Americans won two of its three games during the Alberta road trip, with victories tonight and against the Calgary Hitmen on Wednesday. With the win, the team improved its record against the Eastern Conference to 9-1-0-1.
Eric Comrie recorded the win in goal for the Americans, allowing just two goals while making 27 saves on the night. Taz Burman got the start for the Rebels, allowing three goals on 28 shots.
Tri-City opened the scoring at 10:39 of the first period, when Justin Gutierrez tallied his third goal of the season, finding the loose puck after a Brandon Carlo point shot.
The Americans extended its lead at 15:36, 25 seconds after killing off a Mitch Topping’s hooking penalty. Brian Williams found Beau McCue wide open on the back door and the 18-year-old back handed the puck past the Red Deer net minder.
The Americans had an opportunity to pull away early, with a 5-on-3 man advantage at the end of the first period. But after the first penalty had expired, Josh Thrower was whistled for a check to the head and issued a five minute major and a game misconduct.
The Thrower penalty, which carried over 3:34 into the second period, set the stage for what was a busy period in the penalty box for both teams. Red Deer and Tri-City combined for nine minor penalties in the middle frame and a total of over 21 penalty minutes.
The Rebels took advantage of one of its four power plays in the second, cutting the Americans lead in half with an Evan Polei redirection while Parker Bowles was in the box for tripping.
Tri-City capitalized on one of its five power plays during the second period, with Mitch Topping blasting a point shot past Burman to restore the Americans two-goal lead at 13:30.
The Rebels pulled within a goal for the second time at 7:26 of the third period, when Haydn Fleurry’s shot bounced off the post and onto the stick of Connor Bleakley, scoring on the rebound for his 23rd goal of the season.
After pulling within one goal, the Rebels had its chances to tie the game in the third period. But, were unable to beat Comrie for a third time on Saturday night.
Williams iced the game with an empty net goal at 19:31 for his 33rd goal of the season.
The Americans return home to the friendly confines of the Toyota Center, with games against the Portland Winterhawks (35-12-2-3, 75 pts.) and Spokane Chiefs (31-16-2-2, 66 pts.) on Friday and Saturday night, as the WHL hits the home stretch of the 2013-14 regular season. Tickets for Saturday and Sunday’s game at the Toyota Center 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) Brian Williams, Tri-City
2) Haydn Fluery, Red Deer
3) Mitch Topping, Tri-City