Victoria, BC – The Tri-City Americans (27-24-3-3, 60 pts.) stayed right with a strong Victoria Royals (39-16-1-3, 82 pts.) club for more than three periods of play, but a Jordan Fransoo goal at 2:26 of overtime gave the Royals a 3-2 victory Wednesday night at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena.
Tri-City earned a valuable point, picking up one more on the Prince George Cougars (24-28-2-5, 55 pts.), who lost at home earlier this evening. The Americans now lead the Cougars by five points, with two games in hand on the B.C. Division team.
As expected, both goalies played a big factor for their respective teams, in a matchup between the two best save percentages in the WHL. Eric Comrie made 25 saves on the night, including several highlight real moments, while Coleman Vollrath steered aside 37 shots for the Royals.
While neither team was giving up much room to begin the game, the Americans controlled the play in the early going, recording six of the first nine shots on goal. But, it would be the Royals who opened the scoring at 11:16, with Logan Nelson scoring on his own rebound after Comrie had made a spectacular save on the original shot.
The Americans registered a few quality scoring chances in the late stages of the period, outshooting the Royals 13-12 in the first 20 minutes. However, the team would go into the first intermission with a one goal deficit to overcome.
After more than 35 minutes of penalty free hockey, the Royals took two consecutive minor penalties, putting Tri-City on the power play for almost four minutes. The Americans couldn’t get anything going during the first opportunity, but during its second man advantage, Mitch Topping would tie the game at one, scoring with a point shot at 18:45.
Tri-City continued to pile on the pressure in the final 1:15 of the second period, forcing Vollrath to make several saves in the dying seconds. But, the teams would remain tied at one after 40 minutes of play.
Through the first two periods, there had been only four penalty minutes between both teams. However, in the third period, Tri-City and Victoria combined for 10 minutes in penalties, creating opportunities for both teams.
The Americans took advantage of one of its three third period power plays, with Parker Bowles registering his first goal since returning to the lineup in early January. The Kelowna native’s fifth goal of the season gave Tri-City a 2-1 advantage.
But, just 1:23 later, the Royals would capitalize on its first power play of the game, with Steven Hodges splitting the defense and snapping a wrist shot past Comrie to knot the game at two.
In the final minute of regulation, Brian Williams and Beau McCue went in on goal with a 2-on-1 odd man rush. Williams made a move drawing the goaltender out and passed the puck over to McCue, who seemed to have an open net to shoot on. But, the Royals’ defender blocked the shot with his foot to keep the tie intact.
Fransoo won the game for the Royals at 2:26 of overtime, utilizing the screen in front of the Americans’ goal and wristing a point shot under the arm of Comrie to end the game.
The Americans will now head back across the border for a busy weekend of hockey, starting this Friday, when it takes on the Seattle Thunderbirds (35-17-2-3, 75 pts.) at the ShoWare Center for a 7:35 p.m. faceoff. Then, the team will head east for another Saturday night matchup against the rival Spokane Chiefs (32-20-3-2, 69 pts.) at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. 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) Steven Hodges, Victoria
2) Parker Bowles, Tri-City
3) Jordan Fransoo, Victoria