As it turns out, all the Tri-City Americans needed to do was face a goalie other than Portland's Adin Hill to help end a four-game losing streak.
Parker Bowles had five points and goalie Nick Sanders picked up his first WHL win as Tri-City rebounded from a mid-week loss to Portland by sweeping a home-and-home series with Vancouver over the weekend.
Bowles scored the opening goal Friday against the Giants and assisted on Jordan Topping's overtime winner. Bowles is on a roll of late, with points in five straight games (4 goals, 4 assists in that span).
He added two more goals on Sunday to help the Ams win 4-1 and avenge an October loss at Vancouver in a game they certainly should have won.
Bowles broke open Sunday's game with a pair of goals six minutes apart in the second period. Not to be outdone, Topping sealed the win with his eighth goal of the season. Bowles and Topping lead the club with eight goals each.
Sanders stopped 19 shots Sunday to earn his first career WHL win. He has a 1.52 goals against average and a save percentage above 92 percent so far this season backing up Evan Sarthou. Granted, those numbers come in only 118 minutes played, but Sanders has shown he's ready for more time between the pipes.
The Giants (4-8-2-1) have now lost six straight since defeating Tri-City on October 16.
Hill a thorn once again
For the second time in four days, the Americans peppered Hill with shots. And for the second time in four days, Hill was up to the challenge.
Hill made 50 saves and Portland (7-7-0-0, 3rd place U.S. Division) used two third-period goals to pull away and defeat Tri-City 5-2 in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Jordan Topping (6) and Beau McCue (5) scored for the Ams, while Sarthou made 28 saves.
Tri-City (6-8-1-0, 5th place U.S. Division) hosts reigning WHL Champion Kelowna (10-5-0-0, 2nd place B.C. Division) on Tuesday before earning a much-needed three-day rest. The Ams host arch rival Spokane (7-7-1-1, 2nd place U.S. Division) on Saturday.
On the mend
Tri-City has been without stud defenseman Brandon Carlo (2015 Boston Bruins first-round pick) since a 5-2 loss to Portland on October 24. Head coach Mike Williamson told the Tri-City Herald's Annie Fowler last week that Carlo will be out for a couple weeks. Riley Hillis is also still recovering from an upper-body injury and is expected to miss a few more weeks. Austyn Playfair is nearing a return from an upper-body injury suffered in the home opener against Spokane. He's likely still a week or two away.
Rayman joins Americans
With the injuries piling up along the blue line, GM Bob Tory brought in 19-year-old defenseman Jeff Rayman to fill the void. Rayman spent the past two seasons in Spokane before the Chiefs released him in October. Rayman played Friday against Vancouver but did not play in Sunday's game against the Giants.
Olson, Rasmussen out four games
Tri-City rookies Kyle Olson and Michael Rasmussen are playing in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C. and St. John, B.C. The tournament goes until Saturday and includes three Canadian teams along with one each from USA, Czech Republic, Russia, Finland and Sweden.
Western Canada Challenge Cup
Seven Ams prospects participated in the U16 Western Challenge Canada Cup, which ran Wednesday through Sunday in Calgary. Team Alberta beat Team Manitoba 3-0 to take the gold medal, while Keltie Jeri-Leon (2015 fifth round) scored twice to help Team BC beat Team Saskatchewan 7-2 for the bronze. Carson Focht (2015 first round) had an outstanding tournament for Team Saskatchewan and was named to the Challenge Cup All-Star Team, as was goaltender Matthew Thiessen for Team Manitoba. Seth Bafaro (2015 third round) played for team BC, while Paycen Bjorklund (2015 second round) and Jacob Bennett won gold with Team Alberta. Samuel Stewart joined Thiessen on the bronze medal squad from Manitoba.