Kamloops, BC – Trailing 1-0 early in the third period, the Tri-City Americans (27-24-2-3, 59 pts.) scored two goals in the final frame, including Taylor Vickerman’s game winner at the 15-minute mark, as the Americans defeated the Kamloops Blazers (11-41-2-3, 27 pts.) 2-1 Monday afternoon at the Interior Savings Centre.
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The win completed the Americans’ season sweep of the Blazers, defeating its B.C. Division opponent in all four meetings during the 2013-14 season. Tri-City also extended its lead over the Prince George Cougars (24-27-2-5, 55 pts.) to four points, as the two teams fight for that eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Eric Comrie played a strong game in goal, allowing just one goal on 30 shots, in what turned out to be a goaltending duel for most of the game. His counterpart, Bolton Pouliot, allowed two goals on 29 shots.
Both teams played a very tight first period defensively, with neither team creating many quality scoring chances. Tri-City’s best opportunity in the opening period came when Ty Comrie and Jessey Astles skated in on a 2-on-1. Comrie’s pass across found Astles, but his stick was tied up by the Blazers’ back check, preventing the 20-year-old from getting a shot on goal.
The game opened up in the second period, with many more chances to go around for both teams. Tri-City nearly opened the scoring with the teams skating 4-on-4. Another 2-on-1 opportunity yielded two scoring chances, as Beau McCue was stopped on the initial rush, followed by a Pouliot glove save on Brandon Carlo, who had jumped on the rebound.
While the Americans dominated the first half of the middle frame, out shooting the Blazers 9-3 in the first eight minutes, the Blazers would turn the tables during the last 12 minutes, outshooting Tri-City 8-1 during that time.
Despite all the chances throughout the middle frame, the two sharp net minders shut the door, as the teams skated to a scoreless tie after 40 minutes of play.
The Blazers opened the scoring at 3:30 of the third period, when Cole Ully chased down the puck in the Americans end and found Matt Revel alone in front. The forward took the pass and slid the puck through Comrie’s legs to take the 1-0 lead.
However, just 1:53 later, the Americans would respond with a beautiful individual effort by Astles. The 20-year-old carried the puck into the Blazers zone and snapped it past Pouliot, tying the game at one.
With just five minutes remaining, Tri-City took its first lead of the game when Taylor Vickerman deflected a Mitch Topping point shot past Pouliot. The Americans’ captain created space by faking the shot, then skating around a defender, before finally pulling the trigger. The Kennewick native’s third goal of the season gave the Americans a 2-1 advantage.
With just five minutes remaining on the clock, Tri-City kept the play in the Kamloops zone, preventing the Blazers from registering any scoring chances until the last 90 seconds.
With the goalie out for the extra attacker, the Blazers began to press for the equalizing goal. With under 30 seconds left, the Americans net minder made a blocker save off of a Kamloops point shot. Despite a scramble in the crease, Kamloops was unable to find the loose puck.
The Blazers steered the faceoff towards Comrie with 1.9 seconds remaining, but the 18-year-old net minder calmly directed the puck into the corner as time expired.
The Americans continue its Western Conference road trip Wednesday night, when it travels to the Island to take on the Victoria Royals (38-16-1-3, 80 pts.) for a 7:05 p.m. faceoff at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. 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) Bolton Pouliot, Kamloops
2) Eric Comrie, Tri-City
3) Matt Bellerive, Kamloops