Portland, OR – The Tri-City Americans (28-32-4-5, 65 pts.) punched its ticket the to the 2014 WHL Playoffs, earning a point against the U.S. Division Champion Portland Winterhawks (51-13-2-3, 107 pts.) in a 3-2 overtime loss Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Goaltender Eric Comrie came up big for the Americans, recording a career-high 46 saves on the night and, in the process, broke the all-time franchise record for saves in a single season, previously held by Aaron Baker (1,825) dating back to the 1997-98 season.
The Americans, now with 65 points, have eliminated the Prince George Cougars (26-36-3-5, 60 pts.) from playoff contention and will take on the Western Conference’s number one seed in the first round of the playoffs, either the Kelowna Rockets or the Winterhawks.
Portland controlled play through most of the first period, outshooting the Americans 22-6 in the opening 20 minutes. Portland had several opportunities to take the early lead, none better than Mathew Dumba’s point blank opportunity from the slot. But, a dazzling glove save by Comrie kept the game scoreless.
Early in the second period, Jackson Playfair narrowly missed an opportunity to give the Americans the first goal of the game, taking the pass and firing the shot on goal, but he was foiled by Brendan Burke.
The Winterhawks opened the scoring at 8:59 of the second period, when Taylor Leier took the spin-o-rama pass from Chase De Leo, beating Comrie to give Portland a 1-0 lead.
However, Portland’s lead would be short lived, as Parker Bowles tied the game just 2:31 later, taking the pass from Beau McCue and snapping a wrist shot through traffic from the right circle.
The Americans had an opportunity to take the lead with a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:07 late in the second period. While Tri-City failed to score with the two-man advantage, it would capitalize on the 5-on-4 power play which carried over into the third period.
Just 37 seconds into the third period, Mitch Topping controlled the puck at the blue line and sent the shot in on the Portland goal, where Bowles was there to deflect the puck past Burke for his second score of the game.
The Winterhawks would tie the game at 11:07 of the third period, despite several highlight reel saves by the Americans’ net minder. Dumba took advantage after several failed clearing opportunities by the Americans’ defense, tying the game at two with his sixth goal of the year.
Overtime would be short lived, as Nic Petan would force a turnover at center ice just seconds into the extra frame. Petan then found Brendan Leipsic, who would beat the defense and back hand the puck past Comrie to give the Winterhawks the 3-2 victory.
The Americans wrap up the road portion of its 2013-14 schedule on Friday, when it travels to take on the arch rival Spokane Chiefs (39-24-3-3, 84 pts.) at the Spokane Veterans Memorial arena for a 7:05 p.m. faceoff. Fans can catch the action live, via WHL Live, at the Americans’ official home away from home, Kimo’s in Richland.
Jack In Box Three Stars
1) Mathew Dumba, Portland
2) Eric Comrie, Tri-City
3) Chase De Leo, Portland