The Tri-City Americans have dug themselves some holes so far this season, but yielding five goals in the first period of a game was something new.
But even more surprising than the defensive letdown was the response from the rest of the club afterwards. Trailing by multiple goals on numerous occasions Saturday, the Ams fought all the way back and defeated Victoria in overtime when Vladislav Lukin finished a beautifully executed 3-on-2 with Brandon Carlo.
Overcoming that deficit and going on to win the game can provide the type of momentum Tri-City desperately needs to build at this point in the season.
That momentum is on the rise after a successful week that saw Tri-City capture points from its three opponents. The Ams are still fifth in the U.S. Division and currently out of a playoff position. But that could be reversed quickly with 3 divisional games this week for Tri-City.
Now if only they can go back to the first meeting of the season with Portland and find some answers to solve the Winterhawks' Adin Hill..............
Americans hand Broncos fourth straight U.S. Division loss
On Wednesday the Ams got a solid, and much-needed, defensive effort in a 2-1 home win over Swift Current. The game was the fourth in Swift Current's U.S. Division road trip - they lost the previous three and ended the trip with another loss later in the week to Spokane.
Nolan Yaremko scored his first of the season - and only his second career WHL goal - in the first to give Tri-City a 1-0 lead. Glenn Gawdin tied the score in the second on the power play before Parker Bowles scored the winner off a nice feed from Jordan Topping a few minutes later.
Evan Sarthou got the win in one of his best outings of the season, stopping 25 of 26 shots.
Jordan Roy fared well in his first career WHL fight. He fought Bronco winger Tyler Adams after a scrum along the boards.
Woes against Winterhawks continue in 5-2 loss Friday
After only beating Portland once in 10 attempts last season, the Americans were primed to better that mark after beating the Winterhawks 4-2 in their first meeting this season.
But since then the Winterhawks have dominated Tri-City, outscoring the Ams 21-10 over the next four meetings, including Friday night's 5-2 loss at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
As they have done the past four wins against Tri-City, the Winterhawks scored early and often to build a 4-1 lead three minutes into the second period. Evan Sarthou was pulled after giving up three goals on 10 shots in only 12 minutes. Nick Sanders played well the rest of the way, stopping 34 of 36 shots as the Winterhawks outshot Tri-City 46-28.
Brian Williams and Beau McCue scored for the Americans, who have now faced Portland five times in their first 23 games. Hill stifled the Ams once again, stopping 26 of 28 shots.
Tensions boiled over in the final minutes. Portland center Keegan Iverson was antagonizing an American away from the puck and Maxwell James had enough, throwing Iverson to the ground and pummeling him before Iverson's teammates came to his rescue. James was ejected from the game and suspended for Saturday's win over Victoria. The club was also fined $500 for his actions.
Lukin caps dramatic come-from-behind win in OT
You don't often see a team allow five goals in the first period and go on to win the game. But the Americans' achieved this dubious accomplishment Saturday when they defeated the Royals 6-5 in overtime.
Vladislav Lukin converted an odd-man rush by beating Victoria goalie Griffen Outhouse on the stick side to cap off the comeback, sending home one of the season's best crowds with a memory they won't soon forget.
Carlo, Michael Rasmussen (6), Parker Bowles (11), Brian Williams (5) and Juuso Valimaki (3) all scored for Tri-City, which finished 2-for-4 on the power play.
Victoria overager Logan Fisher potted his fourth of the season to cap a wild first period that saw eight goals, a penalty shot and both starting goalies replaced. The Royals lead 5-3 but only mustered 14 shots the rest of the game.
Sarthou rebounded from a rough outing Friday to pick up the win Saturday after replacing Sanders in the first period. Sanders was able to stop a penalty shot midway through the first, but was yanked after Tyler Soy's second goal of the period gave Victoria a 4-3 lead. Sanders allowed four goals on just seven shots, while Sarthou finished with 18 saves.
Tri-City now sits at 9-13-1-0 (19 points) on the season, fifth in the U.S. Division and ninth in the Western Conference. The Ams are ahead of only Vancouver (5-14-2-2, 14 points) in the conference. Seattle holds the U.S. Division lead with a 15-6-1-0 (31 points) record, ahead of Spokane (12-8-2-1, 27 points), Everett (11-7-0-2, 24 points), Portland (11-10-0-0, 22 points) and Tri-City. The Americans are three points behind Portland and four behind Kamloops (albeit with two more games played than both POR and KAM) in the race to reach the playoffs.
Thanksgiving doesn't mean WHL teams take the week off, as proven by the Ams upcoming busy schedule. Tri-City will host Moose Jaw (11-8-3-1, 3rd place East Division) on Tuesday before heading to Everett on Wednesday for the first of nine meetings with the Silvertips. The Ams take Thanksgiving off before hosting arch rival Spokane on Friday, then head to the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena to face the Chiefs again on Saturday.
On the mend
Tri-City got a much-needed boost when stud defenseman Brandon Carlo returned to the lineup against Swift Current. He made his return known by adding an assist against Portland and a goal and a helper against Victoria. With his return the club sent rookie defenseman Landon Fuller back down to the KIJHL. Kyle Olson is expected back very soon, possibly this week, from a lower-body injury. Austyn Playfair and Taylor Vickerman remain a bit of a mystery, with both players' return dates listed as TBD on the injury report.