Chiefs Blank Tri-City 5-0

By Dan Mulhausen | Tri-City Americans

SPOKANE, WA – Perspective can be difficult to find when a team is struggling.   It gets even more fleeting when your biggest rival continues the rough patch rather than ends it.

Kenton Miller had a three-point night, James Reid picked up 20 saves and five different skaters recorded a goal as the Spokane Chiefs (10-8-1-0, 21 pts)Tri-City Americans (11-7-1-1, 24 pts) in front of 9,816 fans at Veterans Memorial Arena.  With the win, Spokane has now won three straight and has climbed back into the division race after starting the season with a 2-5 record.  Meanwhile, the road-weary Americans dropped their fourth straight game, something the club has not done since January 4-9, 2008.  However, despite the losing streak, Tri-City still holds a 7-6-1-0 road record this year in spite of playing 70% of their games away from home to start the season.

Unfortunately for Tri-City, if they were going to snap their losing skid tonight, it was going to have to be in the building that they’ve had the lowest all time winning percentage among division opponents.

And, with less than nine minutes remaining in the first period, the Chiefs put the Americans in an early hole.  While on the back end of a 4-minute power play, Miller made a great play to keep a Tri-City’s clearing pass in the zone.  Miller then fired a shot through heavy traffic that eventually found the back of the net over Chris Driedger’s blocker.

The Chiefs took their 1-0 lead into the second period, where a three-goal five minute span eventually spelled doom for the Americans.  With 6:20 remaining in the second, and from inside the slot, Anthony Bardaro banged in a Miller rebound to put the Chiefs up by two.  Seconds before, Driedger had stopped Miller on two separate attempts, but had the second rebound sit in the slot and out of the netminder’s reach.

The Americans put the Chiefs back on the power play and they made it count.  With 2:29 left in the period, and after Driedger made a diving glove save to rob Miller again, Tyler Johnson won the ensuing face-off in the Tri-City end and pushed the puck out to Jared Cowen at the point.  From there, Cowen let a blast go that Driedger was able to get in front of, but could not corral, and Levko Koper was there to put  back the rebound to extend the Chiefs’ lead to three.

Then, one minute later, Steve Kuhn forced a turnover and broke out Miller and Blake Gal on a two-on-1 breakaway.  Miller fed Gal, who got Driedger to commit low before lifting a backhander over the rookie to make it a 4-0 game headed into the second break.  It capped a long 20 minutes for Tri-City that saw the Chiefs out shoot the Americans 14 to 4 in the period.

Capping the scoring in the contest, 2:05 into the third period, Koper forced another Tri-City turnover which allowed Johnson to take off on a breakaway, eventually netting a backhander.

Outside of the final two minutes of the contest, Reid was rarely tested, as he picked up his 10th WHL shutout.  Meanwhile, making just his second WHL start, Driedger played well despite allowing five goals on 31 shots in the loss.  Tri-City finished the night 0-for-8 on the power play, while Spokane was 2-for-10 on the man-advantage.

The shutout was the first for either side in the series since the Chiefs blanked the Americans 4-0 back on September 27, 2008.  The five-goal margin of victory was also the largest for either club since Tri-City’s 6-1 win over Spokane on New Year’s Eve of the same season.

The Americans will now get another week to work out the kinks, as they prepare for their next contest on Friday, November 19 against the Chilliwack Bruins (10-8-2-0).  Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Prospera Centre.  It is the first of four regular season meetings between the two conference rivals.  Last season, the Bruins won their first regular season series against Tri-City, taking three of the four games.  However, the Americans returned the favor in the playoffs, ousting the Bruins 4 games to 2 in the First Round.  Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL WebTV, at the Americans’ home away from home, Kimo’s Sports Café in Richland.  The game will also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 7:15 p.m.

Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Kenton Miller, Spokane
2, Jared Cowen, Spokane
3, James Reid, Spokane
shutout the visiting

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