Kennewick, Wa. It’s been a tale of two different weekends for the Tri-City Americans (35-24-8-1, 79 pts.) Last weekend, the team was in the midst of a nasty losing streak that included two shutouts to Portland, giving up a lead to Spokane only to lose in overtime, and falling behind in a game 4-0 before finally battling back to lose 4-3 to Seattle this past Tuesday. That third period against Seattle on Tuesday, did seem to spark something in the Americans, and that momentum has carried. The team was hosting the Vancouver Giants (35-25-6-3, 79 pts.) for the second time in three nights. It was the fourth and final meeting between the two teams for the Americans winning two of the previous three. Vancouver would have loved to earn the split in the season series, but Tri-City was able to hold on for the 4-3 victory and earn their third straight win.
Tri-City has gotten into a bad habit of playing from behind a lot recently. However, for the second night in a row, the Americans were the ones who got on the board first. 14:27 into the first period of this back and forth affair, defenseman Jake Bean picked up his 10th of the season. Michael Rasmussen positioned himself right in front of Vancouver goalie David Tendeck, and gave a great screen to Bean’s floating shot. Tendeck never got a good look at it before it went past him. Vancouver, who played three games in three nights – all on the road, didn’t show any early signs of being tired. Just over two minutes after Bean’s tally, forward Ty Ronning picked up his team-leading 58th of the season on laser from the high slot through traffic to tie things up. Ronning’s line would give the Americans headaches all night. Tri-City, however, answered back quickly to retake the lead. Less than a minute after Ronning’s goal, forward Morgan Geekie made a great individual effort to tally his 28th of the year. Geekie skated in to the Vancouver zone, stayed patient with his opportunity and waited for a clear shot which he buried over Tendeck’s pad. That would cap the scoring in the first, with Tri-City holding the shot advantage, 14-9, and the 2-1 lead.
Vancouver opened the second on a power play after a late slashing call to Americans’ defenseman Dylan Coghlan in the final minute of the first. Ronning again lit the lamp for the Giants and he was left alone in the right circle and sniped a shot short side on Americans’ goaltender Patrick Dea. We were tied yet again, and Vancouver was bringing a lot of pressure and energy early on in the middle frame. Dea was called upon to make some great saves and he came through for the rest of the period for Tri-City. At the 17:41 mark, Rasmussen gave the Americans the lead back and a great tipped deflection right in front. Rookie forward Sasha Mutala, who has been playing huge lately, got the screen in front of Tendeck, and Rasmussen set up right in front of him. Defenseman Anthony Bishop ripped a shot from the high slot, and Rasmussen got his stick on it, sending it down and through Tendeck. It was Rasmussen’s 28th of the year. The assist gave Bishop his second multi-point game of the season, and second in his last seven. Just 23 seconds later, Tri-City would extend the lead to two on the strength of forward Riley Sawchuk’s 14th of the season. Forward Parker AuCoin delivered a great cross ice pass to Sawchuk, who ripped it from down low before Tendeck could get set. The Americans were starting to dominate. Vancouver was probably happy to get out of the period and reset, and they would once again have carryover power play time after a late holding call to Tri-City forward Maxwell James.
Vancouver was unable to convert on the carry over man-advantage time, but they did bring a lot of offensive pressure against Tri-City for most of the third. Dea, playing his third game in three nights, continued to make some incredible saves to keep the Americans’ lead at two. Tri-City had pressure of their own, but Tendeck also made some incredible stops for his squad. Right around the 18 minute mark, Vancouver pulled Tendeck to get the extra attacker on. The move paid off as Vancouver was able to pull to within one. Forward James Malm picked up his 19th of the year, as some great passing and shot through traffic beat Dea at the 18:16 mark. Running had an assist on the play, giving him three points on the night as he factored in on all of Vancouver’s goals. Tri-City was able to clamp down the rest of the game and keep Vancouver from getting anymore quality chances. The Americans skated away with their third victory in three nights. Shots on net were 40 aside. Tri-City was 0-for-4 on the power play while Vancouver went 1-for-4 with the man-advantage. Dea picked up his career high 20th win. The Americans will host Everett on Tuesday night at home, while Vancouver will travel Kamloops on Wednesday. With the win, Tri-City now sits five points ahead of Seattle and five points back of Spokane in the U.S. Division.