Isaac Johnson Doug Love

Americans fall in a close one to Spokane

Kennewick, Wa.

The Tri-City Americans (37-25-8-1, 83pts.) and Spokane Chiefs (40-25-3-3, 86pts.) wrapped up another season of a storied rivalry on Saturday night in the eastern Washington dessert. Tri-City came into the game as the winner of five straight, including beating the Chiefs the night before in Spokane. Spokane had lost four straight and was heading in a different direction as the regular season wrapped up. A win for the Americans tonight would move them past Spokane and into third place in the U.S. Division. A loss would mean the Americans would finish as the 1st wild card in the Western Conference. Unfortunately a loss is exactly what the Americans got, falling 4-3 to Spokane.

Tonight’s match was very similar to the night before in Spokane. At the halfway point of the first, both teams had combined for a total of five shots on goal, with a lot of the play being board battles. Neither goalie had really been tested up to that point.

Following the media timeout, things started to pick up for Spokane. They were given two consecutive power play opportunities. The first one was marked by some incredible saves by Tri-City goaltender Beck Warm. The second, was the story of Chiefs forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan continuing his incredible season. Anderson-Dolan broke the scoreless tie late in the first, and on the power play for his 40th of the season. That was how the period would end. Spokane won the shots on net battle 12-5.

The second period was very similar to the first. Spokane dominated the shots and offensive chances battle. Tri-City struggled to get anything going for the first half of the period.

It was nearly ten minutes in before the Americans got their first shot on net for the period. It was however, their second shot of the middle frame that showed some signs of life. On their first power play opportunity, forward Jordan Topping found twine on a shot from the high circle for his 38th of the season. It was the second night in a row that Tri-City was able to convert on the man-advantage against the Chiefs. Spokane had killed 19 straight against the Americans prior.

Unfortunately for Tri-City, the celebration of the tied up game was short lived.

Just nine seconds after Topping’s goal, a quick entry off the face off found Spokane on an odd-man rush and forward Riley Woods netting his 25th of the year.

Things got a little spirited towards the end of the period. Spokane forward Riley McKay was sent out to frustrate the Americans up against the boards, which he did. Americans’ rookie forward Connor Bouchard decided to send a message. Just after releasing a pass, McKay was drilled by Bouchard on a clean hard check just in front of the Tri-City net. The odd thing was, behind the hit, Tri-City forward Brett Clayton received a questionable interference call, putting the Chiefs on their third power play. Spokane would again convert with just under a minute left. A screened Warm, didn’t get a good read on the puck, and defenseman Filip Kral fired a laser from the left circle that deflected in front for his 9th of the year. Spokane would carry the 2-goal lead into intermission after sorely outshooting Tri-City 13-6 in the period.

Nolan Yaremko
Nolan Yaremko (photo by Doug Love)

Tri-City finally decided to really show up in the third. The offense came alive and finally worked a game plan to get some good chances to the Spokane net. It did take some time for it to happen.

The Chiefs were happy to keep play simple, to the outside, and clog up the neutral zone.

It wasn’t until the 13:21 mark that the Americans pressure finally broke through. Forward Michael Rasmussen set up in front of the Spokane net, right in his “office” where he is so often dangerous. The Americans had an extra attacker as Spokane was facing the delayed penalty. Forwards Nolan Yaremko and Isaac Johnson did a great job of keeping the puck deep and to Chiefs’ goaltender Bailey Brkin’s right side. Yaremko patiently waited for an opening and fired a shot which Brkin stopped, but the rebound was picked up by Rasmussen in front and fired home his 31st of the season. The Americans were again within one.

At 18:24, Spokane appeared to put the game out of reach when forward Jake McGrew picked up his 18th of the year.

Tri-City refused to quit, though, and with Warm pulled and 35 seconds left on the clock, the Americans again pulled to within one. Forward Morgan Geekie reached the 30-goal mark for the second straight season, after a weird play in front of the net saw Weatherill frozen as the puck hit a skate and trickled by before Geekie put it in.

Unfortunately, pulling to within one was the closest Tri-City would get as there five-game win streak came to an end. Tri-City outshot Spokane 10-4 in the third, but the Chiefs had the 29-21 advantage for the game. The Americans were 1-for-1 on the power play while Spokane went 1-for-4. The Americans will wrap up the regular season on Sunday against Seattle, while Spokane will travel to Portland for their final match.

With tonight’s outcome, and Everett’s win, the Western Conference playoff picture is now set. The Americans will open playoff play on Thursday night in Kelowna. Despite the loss tonight, Tri-City has played extremely well the last half dozen games. The playoffs will give them a good chance to keep that momentum rolling.

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