By Dan Mulhausen | Tri-City Americans
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Americans’ Coach Jim Hiller is not one to take a lot of credit, but after Friday night, it would be hard to not look back and reflect on what his teams have accomplished the last two+ seasons.
Adam Hughesman netted his team-leading 12th goal of the season and 16-year-old rookie Eric Comrie stopped all 17 shots he faced, as the Tri-City Americans (9-4-0-0, 18 pts) shutdown the host Prince George Cougars (3-7-0-1, 7 pts) 1-0 in front of 1,855 fans at the CN Centre. With the win, Comrie notched his first career WHL shutout while improving to 3-2 on the year. Meanwhile, the Cougars dropped their fourth straight contest while falling to 0-2-0-1 on home ice this season.
In victory, Hiller recorded his 100th win behind the Americans’ bench, becoming just the third coach in the franchise’s history to reach the feat. He is also the fastest coach to reach the mark, doing it in just 157 games (0.659 win%). It took Bob Loucks (103 wins) 207 games to reach the mark while Don Nachbaur, Tri-City’s all-time coaching wins leader (229), got his 100th win in game #236.
In an ironic twist that seems to happen in sports quite often, Hiller got #100 in a very atypical way and it would come against a former player who played a key role in many of those victories.
Since arriving in Tri-City, Hiller’s teams have been known for their offensive production yet, on Friday, it was the team’s defense that made the biggest impact. The Americans outshot Prince George nearly 2-to-1 in the contest, allowing a season-low 17 shots against on the night. Even better was the Tri-City penalty kill, which allowed just 1 shot on goal through 5 Prince George power play opportunities.
But, on the opposite end of the ice, former Americans goaltender, Drew Owsley, was showing why the Cougars wanted him this off-season, shutting out the potent Tri-City offense until late in the second period.
In the final 4:45 of the second period, the Cougars took three costly penalties that proved to be the difference in the game. First, at the 15:15 mark, Tayler Thompson was called for high sticking to put the Americans back on the power play. Then, just 24 seconds later, and after Zachary Yuen came away bleeding, Spencer Asuchak was sent off for a four-minute high-sticking penalty to put Tri-City on a 5-on-3 advantage.
The Cougars killed off Tri-City’s two-man advantage but, before Asuchak was done serving his time, Cody Carlson shot the puck out of play from the defensive zone and was tagged with a delay of the game penalty, giving Tri-City another 5-on-3 advantage. This time, only 16 seconds into the power play, and with 38 seconds left in the second period, Hughesman came through. Taking a pass from Justin Feser, Hughesman spun around at the near circle and swept a backhander on Owsley, finding space between the netminder’s pads to record the eventual game-winner.
And, although Prince George managed just 4 shots on goal in the third period, Comrie needed to come up big on each of them to preserve the 17-save shutout. On the other end, Owsley stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced in the tough-luck loss. Tri-City finished the night 1-for-9 on the power play and was a perfect 5-of-5 on the penalty kill.
The two teams will now get some rest and prepare to do it all again tomorrow, October 22 as the Americans and Cougars wrap-up their doubleheader weekend at CN Centre. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Tri-City, winners of 6 of their last 7 games at CN Centre, will be looking to win back-to-back road games for the first time this season. Meanwhile, the Cougars will be attempting to snap their 3-game winless streak at home to start the year. Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL Live, at Kimo’s, the Americans’ home away from home, starting at 5:00 p.m. The game will also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 6:45 p.m.
Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Adam Hughesman, Tri-City
2, Drew Owsley, Prince George
3, Eric Comrie, Tri-City