To say the Tri-City Americans home-opening weekend was anything other than bizarre would be the understatement of the season thus far in the WHL.
Lost to Spokane Chiefs 4-3 (OT)
Tri-City rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period Saturday but fell to Spokane 4-3 in overtime. The back-and-forth third period saw Tri-City tie the score, Spokane re-take the lead, and Tri-City tie it again in a span of minutes. Dominic Zwerger needed only 7 seconds of overtime to net the winner on a 2 on 1 break.
After a slow first period the Americans dominated play over the second 20 minutes but had nothing to show for it and trailed 2-0. They out shot Spokane and head coach Mike Williamson was pleased with how his club played despite falling behind.
"We told the guys we didn't have to change anything," he said. "We'll take that type of period any night."
Taylor Vickerman helped get the Ams on the scoreboard with a nifty faceoff move and feed to Vladislav Lukin five minutes into the third. Two minutes later Parker Bowles banged home a rebound from a Brandon Carlo shot to tie the score. Carlo was playing in his first game since returning from a preseason stint with the Boston Bruins.
"We got the sense that guys were getting frustrated and when that happens you try to make an extra pass or stay out a little longer and do something sloppy," he said. "I thought our guys did a good job of staying with it. Not only tying it up at 2, but then when it slipped away to get it right back."
Fans got their first look at the new 3-on-3 overtime format, albeit only for 7 seconds. Spokane captain Jason Fram took the opening faceoff and fired a shot on Evan Sarthou from the faceoff circle and Zwerger buried the rebound to end the game.
"We had several in (preseason) and practiced it," Williamson said of the 3-on-3 play. "There's going to be chances generated and we kind of missed an assignment and it went the other way."
Defeated Seattle Thunderbirds 6-5 (OT)
Sunday's game, however, brought a wider array of emotions.
Five different Ams scored to gain a 5-0 lead in the game's first 22 minutes. Tri-City scored twice on the powerplay, its first conversions with the extra man this season. Jordan Topping started the offensive explosion with his team-leading third goal of the season. Rookie import defenseman Juuso Valimaki scored his first WHL goal on a beautiful deke to make it 5-0 early in the second. Valimaki already has five points in his first three WHL games.
Then Seattle began its furious rally and reeled off five goals in 19 minutes that culminated when Keegan Kolesar took a feed from Scott Eansor and beat Evan Sarthou to make it 5-5 early in the third period.
Both teams got conservative and it was apparent each wanted to walk away with at least a point. In overtime, Parker Wotherspoon started behind his own net and completed a nice give-and-go with Tyler Sandhu before beating Logan Flodell to give Tri-City its first win of the season.
Sarthou started both games in net for the Americans. He stopped 19 of 23 shots against Spokane and 17 of 22 against the Thunderbirds. You can expect to see backup Nicholas Sanders to see some action this week as Sarthou has played every minute in the Ams' first three games.
Next up the Americans hit the road for a game Wednesday in Kamloops and then make the long trip north to Prince George for a weekend series.
Other notes out of Kennewick: Braden Purtill stayed down after a hit Saturday from Spokane's Jacob Cardiff. Purtill did not return to the game and did not play Sunday against Seattle. Cardiff was given a 5-minute major for charging and a game misconduct for the hit...Austyn Playfair sat out Sunday after suffering an injury during a fight with Cardiff after the hit on Purtill Saturday. Playfair slammed the penalty box door in disgust after the fight, a decided victory for Cardiff...The Americans re-assigned 20-year-old Tyler Morrison to the AJHL. Morrison was the odd-man out among the club's 20-year olds...Tri-City re-assigned goaltender Beck Warm to the BC Major Midget League. Warm was competing with Nicholas Sanders for the backup role...Last week Tri-City traded the rights to 18-year old goaltender Jake Morrissey to Sasktatoon for a 6th-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft. Morrissey played in 11 games for Kelowna last season but was released in September. The Americans listed him before trading his rights to Saskatoon.