Spokane, WA- The Tri-City Americans (14-11-1-2, 31 pts.) twice held two-goal leads, but the Spokane Chiefs (17-8-0-1, 35 pts.) came back to tie the game in the third period, going onto defeat the Americans 4-3 in overtime Saturday night at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
The loss was the third in a row for the Americans on the road, and marked just the second time this season Tri-City has failed to earn the victory after carrying a lead into the third period.
Special teams played a major role in deciding the game , with teams combining for 12 power play opportunities. Each team went on to score two goals with the man advantage including the Chiefs game tying goal in the third period.
The power plays began right out of the gates in Spokane, with Chiefs taking its first penalty39 seconds into the first period. The Americans only managed to get one shot in its first man advantage but would receive a second power play just seconds after the original penalty had been killed.
Tri-City would capitalize on the second manage opportunity to open the scoring at the 2:53 mark. After picking up the puck from Phil Tot in the corner, Connor Rankin skated in on Eric Williams and back handed the puck into the net to give the Americans a 1-0 lead.
The Chiefs looked to even the score when it went on its first power play at 5:11 of the first period, but it would be the Americans to capitalize on Spokane’s man advantage. Lucas Nickles skated in on a 2-on-1 and snapped his stick on the wrist shot. The slow shot fooled Williams giving Tri-City a 2-0 lead.
Spokane cut into the Americans lead for the first time at 11:39 of the period. After an offensive possession Eric Comrie attempted to freeze the puck for a whistle in the defensive zone, but Carter Proft was able to poke it in the net before the Tri-City net minder could stop play.
After a Riley Whittingham penalty at 12:19, Phil Tot would regain the Americans two-goal lead. The Calgary native took a back hand pass from Rankin and lifted the puck past Williams to give Tri-City the 3-1 advantage. The Chiefs would add a power play goal late in the period, cutting the Americans lead to 3-2 after 20 minutes of play.
By the time the opening period had come to a close teams had combined for seven power plays, three power play goals and a shorthanded marker in an action packed first period of play.
After a high scoring first period teams were held scoreless in the middle frame as both defenses tightened up. The Americans outshot the Chiefs 8-6 in the second period but it was Mitch Holmberg of the Chiefs to register to two best scoring chances. But Eric Comrie stifled the league’s leading goal scorer on both occasion to keep Tri-City’s lead intact.
The Chiefs would even the score at 8:09 of the third period just moments after Nickles had been denied his second goal of the game on a shorthanded breakaway. Holmberg’s shot deflected off a skate into the net to knot the game at three.
With just 1:56 remaining in the third period, Wil Tomchuk was whistled for a hooking penalty, giving the Chiefs a golden opportunity to win the game in regulation. But Tri-City’s third ranked penalty kill held strong, forcing the game into overtime.
After 4:30 of the five minute extra period, it appeared that the game would be decided in a shootout. But on a late 3-on-2 rush, Jason Fram took a pass from Holmberg and slid it passed Comrie’s pad to end the game with 24 seconds remaining in overtime.
Comrie got the start for the Americans after getting the last two games off. The 18-year-old made 41 saves on the night keeping his team either in the lead or tied throughout the game.
Tri-City will be back at the Toyota Center for a double header weekend in Kennewick starting on Friday night when the Victoria Royals (17-10-0-1, 35 pts.) come to town for a 7:05 p.m. faceoff. Then on Saturday night the Americans will once again meet the Spokane Chiefs in another U.S. Division showdown. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, including the Toyota Center box office, all Fred Meyer locations, or online at ticketmaster.com.
Jack In Box Three Stars
1) Jason Fram, Spokane
2) Mitch Holmberg, Spokane
3) Connor Rankin, Tri-City