by Ben Tole
March 7, 2014, Kennewick, WA (ISN) – After a Lucas Nickles’ goal got the Tri-City Americans (28-31-3-5, 64 pts.) within one late in the second period, the team threw everything it had at Austin Lotz and the Everett Silvertips (35-23-7-2, 79 pts.) in the final frame, looking to draw even. But, a strong Everett defense buckled down, defeating the Americans 4-2 Friday night at the Toyota Center.
While the Americans failed to earn any points on Friday night, the team received some help from the arch rival Spokane Chiefs (37-24-3-3, 80 pts.), who scored four unanswered goals in the third period to defeat the Prince George Cougars (26-35-3-5, 60 pts.) 4-2. Tri-City’s magic number to clinch a playoff berth is now three points with five games remaining.
The Silvertips jumped out to an early lead, with Matt Fonteyne scoring on the first shot of the game at 1:14, making it 1-0 Everett. Despite the slow start, Eric Comrie recovered nicely, making 17 saves in the opening period, keeping his team within striking distance.
The Americans would take advantage of the strong play by its goaltender, when Justin Gutierrez won a the puck battle in the corner, skated in on goal and slid the puck past Lotz, tying the game with his fourth goal of the season.
After Gutierrez was called for hooking at the eight minute mark of the second period, Ivan Nikolishin gave his team the 2-1 lead on the ensueing power play, taking the cross ice pass from Josh Winquist and wristing it in for his 19th goal of the season.
Rodney Southam had a golden opportunity to tie the game moments later, going in on the 2-on-1 break with Parker Bowles, but Lotz slid across his crease to make the glove save.
At 18:31, Everett took a two goal lead momentarily, when Logan Aasman chipped it past Comrie to make it 3-1. But, Nickles would get Tri-City back within a goal, corralling the puck after Michal Plutnar’s point shot bounced off him and came to rest dangerously in the crease.
The Americans pressed hard in the third period, out shooting the Silvertips 15-9 in the final 20 minutes, as the team tried desperately to tie the game. Tri-City pulled Comrie with 3:07 remaining, looking to equalize the game with a 6-on-5 man advantage. But, with 13 seconds remaining, Brayden Low sealed the victory for Everett with an empty netter.
The Americans will begin its final road swing of the season tomorrow night, when it travels to take on the CHL leading Kelowna Rockets (53-10-0-4, 110pts.) at Prospera Place for a 7:05 p.m. faceoff. Fans can catch the action live, via WHL Live, at the Americans’ official home away from home, Kimo’s in Richland.
Jack In Box Three Stars
1) Matt Pufahl, Everett
2) Justin Gutierrez, Tri-City
3) Logan Aasman, Everett