By Dan Mulhausen | Tri-City Americans
KENT, WA – On Saturday, the Americans took the saying, “save the best for last” to a whole new level.
Down 3-0 to start the third, Mason Wilgosh helped guide a furious five-goal flurry, rallying the visiting Tri-City Americans (27-7-0-0, 54 pts) past the Seattle Thunderbirds (13-17-0-1, 27 pts) 5-3 in front of 3,225 fans at ShoWare Center. With the win, the Americans stretched their season-long winning streak to 8 games, and won their fifth straight on the road. Meanwhile, Seattle lost back-to-back games to Tri-City, falling to 1-3 against their division rivals to round out the first half of the season.
With a 27-7 record, Tri-City heads into the Winter Break with the best record in the franchise’s history. It’s also the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Americans took at least 23 wins into the Winter Break.
Things did not bode well for the Americans early on, as they quickly fell behind 2-0. Just 4:25 into the contest, Tyler Alos forced a turnover deep inside the Tri-City zone, then fed Luke Lockhart in the slot. From there, Lockhart beat Ty Rimmer to the far post for his 7th goal of the season. Only three minutes later, Sean Aschim cleaned up a Branden Troock rebound to make it a two-goal Seattle lead.
Then, despite being outshot 13 to 6 in the second period, the T’birds went up by three with 4:41 left in the period. Following a breakout pass from Brad Deagle, Burke Gallimore waited for Colin Jacobs to join the rush, feeding him in the high slot before Jacobs ripped a shot past Rimmer for the 3-0 lead.
But, Tri-City started to make some noise early in the third period. Just 34 seconds into the period, and following a Zachary Yuen shot, Justin Feser capitalized on a loose puck that sat in the crease, swatting it into the near empty net for the Americans’ first goal.
Then, two minutes later, a great backhand pass by Brendan Shinnimin found Patrick Holland in the left circle, who beat Calvin Pickard to pull Tri-City to within one. After another two minutes past, Holland again found the back of the net, ripping a shot over Pickard’s blocker to tie the game. The Americans, though, were still not done, as Feser found just enough space over Pickard’s shoulder at the near post, giving him his second goal of the game and Tri-City a 4-3 lead.
And, by the 6:21 mark of the third period, the Americans had overwhelmed Seattle with four goals in a 6-minute span to take control of the contest.
Finally, with less than two minutes left in regulation, Wilgosh capped the comeback with his 6th goal of the season. Wilgosh, who had four points (1+3) on the night, matched his career-best for points and assists in a game he had set on Jan. 8, 2011 vs. Lethbridge.
Rimmer, meanwhile, was solid down the stretch, stopping all 13 shots Seattle threw his way in the third period to preserve the victory. By the end of the night, Rimmer had collected 25 saves on 28 shots, improving to 4-0 in the month of December and 15-4 on the year. On the other end, Pickard, who had 25 saves after two periods, finished with 38 in the loss. Tri-City finished the night 0-for-4 on the power play, snapping their 7-game run of at least one power play goal, but was a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Following the week off, the Americans will return to Kennewick and prepare for a critical four-game homestand that takes them into the New Year. First up are the Kelowna Rockets (14-16-2-3), who visit the Toyota Center on Thursday, December 29. Game time is 7:05 p.m. Kelowna, which has taken 2 of 3 vs. Tri-City this season, is the last club to beat the Americans, a 6-2 win back on Nov. 30 in the Lake City. The Rockets, which went 2-2-0-2 in their swing through the East Division to wrap-up their first half, come in winners of two of their last three. Meanwhile, Tri-City will be looking to stretch their winning streak, both overall and inside the Toyota Center, to 9 straight games. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, including online at ticketmaster.com, the Toyota Center box office, or all Fred Meyer outlets. 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, Patrick Holland, Tri-City
2, Colin Jacobs, Seattle
3, Justin Feser, Tri-City