Portland, OR – Through the first two games of the WHL season, the Tri-City Americans (1-2-0-0, 2 pts) were unable to get its offense going, but that was not a problem on Tuesday, as the Americans scored four goals in the first period, on its way to a convincing 6-2 victory over the defending WHL Champion Portland Wintherhawks (1-1-0-1, 3 pts).
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For the first time this season, Tri-City recorded the first goal of the game. The play began in the defensive zone, where Eric Comrie made a dazzling pad save sliding to his left. The Americans went back the other way, where Philip Tot chipped in the rebound off of a Justin Hamonic slap shot, over Brendan Burke, to give the Americans an early 1-0 lead.
The Americans added to its lead, when Ryan Chynoweth found an open Brian Williams skating to the net on his own. Williams made no mistake, scoring on the backhand to give the Americans a 2-0 lead.
The Wintherhawks briefly cut into the Americans lead with a Taylor Leier goal at 15:13, but just a minute and 39 seconds later, Lucas Nickles capitalized on a miscue by the Portland goaltender and slid the puck into an open net.
After a Preston Kopeck penalty negated the second half of Chynoweth’s high sticking double minor, Williams snapped his second goal of the night past Burke to give the Americans a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes.
In the second period, the Winerhawks found themselves in the penalty box early and often, taking four successive minor penalties, and the Americans made them pay. Rankin scored his first of the season on one of these power plays, picking up a blocked shot and snapping it past the blocker of Burke. Williams then completed his hat trick on the very next power play to give Tri-City a 6-1 lead after 40 minutes.
With a five goal deficit to make up, the Winterhawks were given a glimmer of hope early in the third period. Ty Comrie and Justin Gutierrez took minor penalties on the same play to give Portland a full two minute 5-on-3 opportunity. The Americans penalty killing unit came through, not allowing Portland to record a single shot.
Coming into the game, the Winterhawks had already netted five goals on the power play, scoring on just under 40 percent of its opportunities. But the Americans penalty killing unit kept Portland off the board on seven power plays.
The Winterhawks added a second goal late in the game, when Alex Schoenborn scored with just over a minute left, but that was as close as Portland would come, suffering its first regulation loss of the season.
The Americans outshot its opponent for the first time this season, with a 40-32 edge over the Winterhawks.
While Comrie played with a big lead for most of the game, he made several important saves for the Americans while the game was still knotted at zero, finishing with a season high 30 saves on the night. Burke, who had been solid through the first two games, was removed after 40 minutes, allowing all six goals.
The Americans will play a busy weekend of hockey when it visits two in-state rivals. First against the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent before traveling to Spokane where it hopes to avenge last Saturday’s season opening loss to the Chiefs.
Jack In Box Three Stars
1) Brian Williams, Tri-City
2) Eric Comrie, Tri-City
3) Mitch Topping, Tri-City