The Tri-City Americans faced their toughest stretch of the early season last week, squaring off against two of the league's best in a span of three days.
While they didn't disappoint against conference favorites, they still walked away with zero points. That's what facing the likes of Seattle and Brandon can do.
Portland visited Kennewick for the second straight Saturday, this time riding the momentum of a shut-out win the previous night in Everett.
The Hawks raced out to a 3-0 lead midway through the game with goaltender Adin Hill repeatedly denying the Americans on point-blank opportunities.
Momentum then shifted and Tri-City roared back to draw even at 3-3 when Brian Williams scored with 12 minutes left.
But Portland wouldn't be denied, scoring twice and holding on for the 5-4 win.
"We just started firing on all cylinders (in third period) and we were taking advantage of the turnovers we were given," Williams said. "Unfortunately they scored quickly because we were surging after that third goal."
Added Williams: "The leaders said ‘we have to pick it up' before we came out for the last period."
Despite earning zero points on the week, there were plenty of positives for Tri-City to take away heading into another busy week.
"We're just trying to learn that we have to play a full 60 minutes and not just fragments of games," Williams said. "That's what we're really taking away from these tough losses."
Close battle in Kent
The week started Wednesday in Kent with a 3-2 loss to the U.S. Division-leading Thunderbirds. Michael Rasmussen and Morgan Geekie scored as the Ams continued their trend of young players finding the back of the net.
Ethan Bear's second goal of the night broke a 2-2 tie with eight minutes left and Seattle killed a penalty in the final two minutes to hold on for the win. The Ams have now dropped three straight on the road.
The Americans had plenty of chances to tie the score but couldn't beat Logan Flodell, who finished with 27 saves to earn second star of the game. At the other end, Evan Sarthou stopped 22 shots and made a handful of fantastic saves to keep the score tied.
League-favorite Brandon visits
Defending Eastern Conference champion Brandon rolled into Kennewick Friday night and used two third-period goals to break open a 3-3 game and defeat the Ams 5-3.
Parker Bowles and Tyler Sandhu each scored their team-leading fifth goals to give Tri-City a 2-1 lead in the second. John Quenneville (New Jersey first-round pick in 2014) showed why he was a first-round pick with a shorthanded goal and Brandon later took a 3-2 lead before Jusso Valimaki's second of the season made it 3-3. Rihards Bujkarts' second of the game sealed the Wheat Kings' (8-1-0-2, 18 points, 2nd place East Division) win. Sarthou had 29 saves in the loss.
Valimaki is proving to be a worthy import selection thus far for Tri-City, recording 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) in 12 games.
Saturday comeback falls short
Trailing 3-0 midway through the game, the Ams were sparked by a Brandon Carlo fight and tied the game within 18 minutes. Carlo drew a big applause from his teammates when he returned from serving his five minutes.
Jordan Topping, Vladislav Lukin and Williams scored to draw Tri-City even and erupt the 3,590 on hand at the Toyota Center. Williams' goal came after Tri-City had many chances on a net-mouth scramble. Parker Bowles fed Williams, who wristed one past a sprawling Hill.
"I don't know how Parker Bowles got it to me," Williams said. "He was on the ground, looking the wrong way, on his backhand and put it right on my tape. All I did was shoot.
"We could feel the crowd getting behind us, and the third (goal) put them over the edge."
However minutes later Caleb Jones and Alex Schoenborn scored to quickly regain a two goal lead and send some fans to the exits. Maxwell James' first of the season made it 5-4 to give Tri-City hope, but Hill shut the door again and again in the final minutes for the win. Hill finished with 38 saves. Sarthou stopped 30 shots for Tri-City.
Tri-City (4-7-1-0, 9 pts, 4th place U.S. Division) heads to the Rose City to face the Winterhawks (4-6-0-0, 8 points, 5th place, U.S. Division) again on Wednesday. The Ams then play a home-and-home series with Vancouver (4-6-1-1, 10 points, 4th place, B.C. Division) Friday (in Kennewick) and Sunday (at Vancouver).
On the mend
Several Americans are recovering from, and fighting through, injuries already this season. Taylor Vickerman returned from a lower-body injury Friday against Brandon. Vickerman had missed the previous five games. Austyn Playfair is still out after suffering an injury in a fight in the home opener on October 3. He's expected to miss another two weeks with an upper body injury. Riley Hillis returned from offseason surgery but took a hard hit against Seattle and didn't return to the game. Hillis did not play Friday or Saturday.
Purtill traded to Rebels
Forward Braden Purtill was traded to the Red Deer Rebels move before Wednesday's game in Kent. Tri-City got a third-round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft in return. Purtill had not played for the Ams since suffering an injury in the home opener on a hit from Spokane's Jacob Cardiff. Cardiff was suspended three games for the hit. Purtill is now on the only team already guaranteed to play in the MasterCard Memorial Cup as Red Deer will host the event in May. Purtill had a goal and an assist in his second game with Red Deer, a 4-3 win over Kootenay on Saturday.