Kennewick, WA- The Tri-City Americans (8-8-0-1 17 pts.) got a complete team effort, receiving goals from four different players on its way to a 4-1 victory against the Brandon Wheat Kings (7-7-0-0 14 pts.) Saturday night at the Toyota Center.
The win was the fourth in the last five games for the Americans, reached .500 for the first time in the 2013-14 season.
A Justin Gutierrez tripping penalty put the Americans a man down just 37 seconds into the game, but another strong penalty killing effort prevented the Wheat King power play from getting any shots on goal. Once Tri-City returned to full strength, it began to take over the period, recording the games’ first seven shots.
Over its past five game’s, the Americans had been held to just one goal on the man advantage. That changed on Saturday, as power play goals by Michal Plutnar and Justin Hamonic gave the Americans a 2-0 first period lead. It was the first goal of the season for both Plutnar and Hamonic, both scoring from point shots through traffic.
At 2:24 of the second period, the Americans added to its lead. A strong rush from Devon McAndrews led to Jessey Astles’ second goal of the season, putting Tri-City ahead 3-0. The fourth line of Astles, McAndrews and Marcus Messier played a big factor on both ends of the ice for the Americans.
The Wheat Kings added a late second period goal at the 17:25 mark, when Taylor Cooper went in alone on Eric Comrie to pull Brandon within two goals after 40 minutes.
Early in the third period, Tri-City found itself in penalty trouble, with two consecutive McAndrews minor penalties in the first five minutes. But, as it had done throughout the night, the Americans held the Wheat Kings power play in check. With four successful penalty kills in the game, the Americans improved its penalty killing to 84.6 percent on the season, third best among WHL teams.
Any momentum the Wheat Kings may have gained from its early period power plays ended at the 9:45 mark. Brian Williams took a pass from Mitch Topping, dangled his way through the defense, and slid the puck just inside the post to give Tri-City its fourth and final goal of the evening. The late second period tally was the only score Brandon could produce against a stingy Tri-City defense.
Comrie turned in another solid outing for the Americans, making 25 saves on the night to improve his goals against to 2.60 on the season. Curtis Honey matched Comrie’s 25 save effort, allowing four goals in a losing effort.
With a successful home stand in the books, the Americans head to east to begin a five-game road swing beginning this Friday when Tri-City visits the Medicine Hat Tigers (8-3-2-0 18 pts.). The Americans will also visit the Lethbridge Hurricans (2-11-1-1 6 pts.) and Kooteny Ice (7-6-2-0 16 pts.) to conclude a busy weekend of hockey. Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL Live, at the Americans’ official home away from home, Kimo’s in Richland.
Jack In Box Three Stars
1) Jessey Astles, Tri-City
2) Lucas Nickles, Tri-City
3) Mitch Topping, Tri-City