By Dan Mulhausen | Tri-City Americans
KENNEWICK, WA – The 2011-12 Season may have taken a week-long break, but the Americans’ offense sure didn’t miss a beat.
Brendan Shinnimin scored two shorthanded goals and finished with 4 points, while Ty Rimmer stopped 33 of 34, lifting the Tri-City Americans (28-7-0-0, 56 pts) past the visiting Kelowna Rockets (14-18-2-3, 33 pts) 5-1 in front of 4,847 fans at the Toyota Center. With the win, Tri-City ran their overall winning streak to 9 games, while their home-winning streak also sits at 9 games. Meanwhile, the Rockets fell to 0-2 to start the second half and have lost 7 of their last 10. It also marked the end of the four-game season series between the two division rivals, which finishes tied at 2 wins apiece.
Despite combining for 30 shots on goal in the first period, both teams still appeared to be shaking off the Winter Break rust. But, just past the midway point of the period, Tri-City got that all-important first goal. After Shinnimin won the face-off in the Tri-City zone, he passed the puck up to Hughesman at center ice, who carried it in on a 2-on-1 breakaway with Patrick Holland. Hughesman waited, and then fed Holland, who beat Adam Brown inside the right post. For Holland, he now has goals in three consecutive games and in 4 of his last 5.
But, Kelowna received 3 power plays in the first period, finally connecting on the third to even the score. Just 29 seconds into the second period, and with two seconds left on the man-advantage, Carter Rigby fired a puck off the backboards that bounced straight to Colton Sissons. Sissons then batted the puck out of the air and behind Rimmer, picking up his team-leading 21st goal of the year.
Penalties again plagued Tri-City in the second period, but Shinnimin and Mason Wilgosh made sure they didn’t come back to bite them. Just 4:05 into the second, and 25 seconds into a penalty killing situation, Wilgosh stripped a Rockets defender at the blue line, then hit Shinnimin, who was hustling into the Kelowna zone. Shinnimin faked to his backhand then beat Brown with a forehand, giving Tri-City a 2-1 lead. Four minutes later, it was déjà vu all over again, as Wilgosh stole another puck, then broke out Shinnimin, who beat Brown with another forehand.
At the 5:11 mark of the third period, and while playing four-aside, Shinnimin capped his natural hat trick. After Strömwall fired the puck behind the Kelowna net, Zachary Yuen picked it up and attempted a wrap-around tuck at the near post. Brown kicked out the rebound, but it went straight to Shinnimin, who buried his 20th of the year. In his four-year WHL career, it marked the first regular season hat trick for Shinnimin, as he moved into 13th all-time on Tri-City’s goals scored list with 93.
Three minutes later, and on a power play of their own, Brian Williams wrapped up the scoring in the contest with his 4th goal of the season off an assist from Strömwall.
Behind his 33-save effort, Rimmer improved to 5-0 in the month of December and 16-4 on the season. On the other end, Brown matched his season-high of 37 saves but suffered his second straight setback. Both teams finished 1-for-5 on the man-advantage.
Tri-City will now put their winning streaks on the line in their final game of 2011, as they turn their attention to the rival Spokane Chiefs (16-11-2-3) and the annual New Year’s Eve affair at Toyota Center. Game time on Saturday, December 31 is 7:05 p.m. After starting the season 0-8 on the road, the Chiefs, who play in Cranbrook on Friday against the Kootenay Ice, are now 4-2-0-1 in their last seven road contests. It will mark the 21st time the two division rivals have clashed on New Year’s Eve, with Tri-City holding a 13-5-0-1 with 1 tie record in the year-end match-up. Last season’s contest was ‘officially’ removed from the record books due to the unsafe ice conditions that developed midway into the second period. Standing Room Only tickets are available through the Toyota Center box office only. The game will air live on My Network TV channel 280 starting at 7:00 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, Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City
2, Ty Rimmer, Tri-City
3, Mason Wilgosh, Tri-City