Kent, WA – After falling behind 3-0 eight minutes into the third period, the Tri-City Americans (27-25-3-3, 60 pts.) came roaring back with three goals of its own to tie the game late, but a goal by Russell Maxwell with 26 seconds remaining would give the Seattle Thunderbirds (36-17-2-3, 77 pts.) a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Americans at the ShoWare Center on Friday night.
While the Americans failed to earn any points, the team still held onto its five point lead over the Prince George Cougars (24-29-2-5, 55 pts.) for the eighth and final playoff spot, after the B.C. Division team lost earlier this evening.
The Americans gained momentum early in the first period after Adam Henry was whistled for a high sticking penalty 1:56 into the game. Tri-City managed two shots on the man advantage, and continued to pile on the pressure in the minutes following, registering seven of the game’s first nine shots.
The Americans outshot the Thunderbirds 15-7 in the opening frame, but the score remained 0-0 after 20 minutes of play.
Seattle turned on the pressure in the second period, pinning Tri-City in its own zone for the first four minutes of the middle frame. But, tough defense prevented the Thunderbirds from registering any shots during that time.
After killing off two penalties early in the second period, the Thunderbirds opened the scoring on its first man advantage, when Justin Hickman skated in from the corner, scoring on his own rebound after Comrie had made the original save.
Following another missed opportunity on the man advantage for the Americans, Seattle wasted little time extending its lead at the 15:24 mark, just 29 seconds after its infraction had expired. Keegan Kolesar took a pass from Mathew Barzal on a 2-on-1 break and snapped the puck over the Americans net minder’s shoulder.
Despite outshooting Seattle 21-14, the Americans headed into the second intermission trailing 2-0.
After a slower start to the third period, the game began to open up at 6:03, when a post-whistle dust up put teams 4-on-4 for a full two minutes. Brian Williams narrowly missed on the breakaway when his backhand sailed just wide, and on the very next rush, the Thunderbirds extended its lead to 3-0 with an Adam Henry point shot.
Following Seattle’s third goal, the game began to get chippy, as teams would face off in a full line brawl 33 second later. The scrum would lead to 40 penalty minutes, four game misconducts and ended with the Americans skating a man down.
While killing the penalty, Lucas Nickles gave the Americans life, stealing the puck at the Americans’ blue line and scoring on the breakaway to get Tri-City back within two goals. Then, just over four minutes later, Parker Bowles got the Americans right back in the game with his second goal in as many nights.
Beau McCue tied the game at 17:15, capitalizing after the Americans had pulled Comrie for the extra attacker, tying the game with the team’s third goal in the last 7:50.
But, after the Americans had killed off a key power play, Maxwell would give the Thunderbirds the lead back at 19:34, scoring after Branden Troock’s rebound ricocheted right to him and buried what would be the winning goal.
The Americans wrap up a busy weekend of hockey tomorrow night, when it visits the rival Spokane Chiefs (32-20-3-2, 69 pts.) for another Saturday matchup at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena for a 7:05 p.m. faceoff. 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) Taran Kozun, Seattle
2) Lucas Nickle, Tri-City
3) Mathew Barzal, Seattle