By Dan Mulhausen | Tri-City Americans
PORTLAND, OR – The Americans did something on Wednesday that they had not done all season. And, in the process, their season is now on the brink.
Ty Rattie scored the eventual game-winner midway through the 3rd period and Mac Carruth turned aside 38 shots, as the Portland Winterhawks (11-3-0, 22 pts) rallied for a 3-1 win over the visiting Tri-City Americans (8-1-5, 16 pts) in Game 3 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals in front of 7,716 fans inside the Rose Garden. The win gave the ‘Hawks a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and are now one win away from going back to the WHL Finals for a second straight year. Meanwhile, the loss was the Americans’ first in regulation this post-season, who dropped a third straight game for the first time this season.
Coming off two disheartening losses to start the series, the Americans couldn’t have asked for a better start to Game 3. After Portland’s Taylor Leier took a penalty just 48 seconds into the contest, the power play came through again for Tri-City. Only 28 seconds into the man-advantage, Patrick Holland ripped a shot off the post, but saw the rebound find Adam Hughesman backdoor. From there, Hughesman put back his team-leading 8th goal of the post-season to make it 1-0 Tri-City.
But, that would be all the offense the Americans could muster on tonight’s first star, Mac Carruth, who thwarted several great Americans scoring chances throughout the night.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the ice, Ty Rimmer was arguably putting in his best performance of the post-season, keeping the ‘Hawks at bay.
But, as the game approached the midway point, penalties started to mount up for the Americans, putting Tri-City on its heels for much of the remainder of the contest. Starting with Jordan Messier’s slashing penalty at the 8:17 mark of the 2nd period, Portland took advantage of six of the next seven power plays handed out, including the final 5 in the game and started the 3rd period with a 50-second 5-on-3 advantage.
And, although it didn’t come on the man-advantage, just 23 seconds after their first opportunity expired, the ‘Hawks pulled even. At the 10:40 mark of the 2nd period, Marcel Noebels stripped Holland of the puck, then turned and fired a quick shot past Rimmer to record his second goal of the series.
Then, midway through the 3rd period, and back on the power play, Rattie notched his second game-winning goal in as many games, when he beat Rimmer up over his blocker for a 2-1 Portland edge.
With just under two minutes remaining in regulation, head coach Jim Hiller elected to pull Rimmer for the extra attacker. But, with 34 seconds left in regulation, Brad Ross grabbed a loose puck out of the corner and sent it the length of the ice, scoring just inside the right post to seal the victory.
Rimmer finished the night by recording a playoff-high 44 saves in another tough-luck loss. Meanwhile, Carruth’s 38 saves earned him his 11th playoff win. Both teams finished the night 1-for-6 on the power play.
With Game 4 set for tomorrow, Thursday, April 26, it’s now a do-or-die situation for the Americans. Game time is 7:00 p.m. at the Rose Garden. Facing their first elimination game this post-season, the Americans will be looking to force a Game 5 back in Kennewick on Saturday. Meanwhile, the ‘Hawks, who skated out to a 3-0 series lead in the conference semi-finals only to have Kamloops come back to force a Game 7, will be looking to ensure history does not repeat itself this time around. Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL Live, at Kimo’s, the Americans’ home away from home, starting at 7:00 p.m. 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.
With an assist on Adam Hughesman’s goal, Brendan Shinnimin’s point streak has now reached 37 straight games…Including the post-season, the Americans had not lost three consecutive games since Feb. 26-Mar. 1 of last season, a span of 103 games.
Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Mac Carruth, Portland
2, Ty Rimmer, Tri-City
3, Marcel Noebels, Portland