(ISN) – Portland, OR- While nothing was on the line, neither team wanted to end the regular season with a loss. The Tri-City Americans (31-38-0-3, 65 pts) tried to win three straight entering the playoffs, but couldn’t pull it off as the Portland Winterhawks (43-23-2-4, 92 pts) earned a 5-3 win in front of 7,560 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Sunday night.
The Americans got on the board first, as Justin Gutierrez fired a pass across the zone to Tyler Morrison, firing a shot into the net for a 1-0 lead. Portland answered less than two minutes later as Oliver Bjorksrand put the puck into the back of the net, evening the score at one after the first period.
It was back and forth to start the second period as each team looked for the go-ahead goal. Portland got the first goal of the second, as Paul Bittner scored on the power play midway through the second to put the Winterhawks ahead. Less than a minute later, the Americans answered on an outstanding goal, as Richard Nejezchleb batted the puck out of the air and into the goal to even the score at two going into the third period.
Portland retook the lead midway through the third, as Chase De Leo scored off an Americans’ turnover to push the Winterhawks back in front, 3-2. Tri-City tried to tie the game back up, but Nic Petan scored an empty net goal to increase the lead to two goals. The Americans didn’t give up, as Maxwell James cut the lead to 4-3 with less than 50 seconds remaining in the game. Tri-City pulled the goaltender and tried to tie the game, but a Bjorkstrand empty net goal sealed the win for Portland.
Tri-City lost nine of the 10 meetings against Portland this season.
The Americans spent 24 minutes in the penalty box and were 1-of-3 on the power play. Portland recorded eight penalty minutes and was 1-of-6 on the power play.
Evan Sarthou stopped 49 shots in the loss while Evan Johnson made 16 saves in the win.
The Americans will play in the first round of the 2015 WHL Playoffs, starting this Friday, March 27, against the top seed Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place. Game time is at 7:05 p.m. Kelowna won the season series against the Americans, 3-1. Tri-City’s first home playoff game will be game 3 on Tuesday, March 31, at Toyota Center. Individual tickets will be available beginning at noon on Monday, March 23. Contact the Americans office for group packages, available at 9 a.m. on Monday.
Jack in the Box Three Stars
1. Josh Hanson, Portland
2. Nicolas Petan, Portland
3. Oliver Bjorkstrand, Portland