Finally the week the Tri-City Americans were waiting for had arrived.
The club had waited all season for a week like this: only two games, spread apart by three days, allowing the club maximum rest and practice time. Tri-City has been ravaged by injuries all season, and last week's light schedule provided the chance for some to return while others relax and prepare for an upcoming scheduled filled with U.S. Division opponents.
When the games arrived, the Ams looked rejuvenated and ready to face a pair of U.S. Division favorites. Of course, getting players off the injury list and filling four lines of forwards for the first time in a few weeks didn't hurt, either.
Here's a quick recap of the Americans' week.............
Pair of shorthanded goals spark win in Everett
Juuso Valimaki continues to show why GM Bob Tory made the right choice in this summer's CHL Import Draft. The Finnish defenseman potted the first of two short-handed goals for the Ams in a 4-1 win over Everett.
Beau McCue converted the other shortie on a beautifully-executed 2-on-1 break with Brandon Carlo to give Tri-City a 4-0 lead early in the third. That goal ended the night for ‘Tips stud goalie Carter Hart, who was fresh off being named the Vaughn CHL Goalie of the Week for the previous week.
Parker AuCoin opened the scoring with his third of the season in the first period, as Tri-City dominated the first period and out-shot the ‘Tips 9-3. Dylan Coghlan's first of the season off a shot from the point made it 2-0 in the second. Coghlan and fellow 16-year-old defenseman Dakota Krebs have provided vital minutes as Tri-City's defensive core has been plagued by injuries from the first game of the year.
Evan Sarthou made some big saves to keep Everett scoreless until the third. He stopped 23 of 24 shots in the win.
Late goal ruins solid effort against Thunderbirds
The Stanley Cup was on hand in Kent Saturday night as the region celebrated 100 years of Seattle hockey.
However the Ams couldn't send home a sold-out crowd disappointed as Thunderbirds overager Jared Hauf scored his first goal of the season with less than two minutes left and Seattle held off a late surge to beat Tri-City 3-2.
Seattle's defense and fore-check choked the Ams for much of the first period, and as a result outshot the Ams 11-1. Only the heroics of Sarthou kept the game from getting out of hand early. Mathew Barzal, a first-round pick of the New York Islanders this summer, scored on a rebound for a 1-0 Seattle lead.
The Ams got a little help from Seattle to draw even in the second. Seattle took four minor penalties in the period and Tri-City took advantage, getting power-play goals from Parker Bowles (16) and Michael Rasmussen (8) to take a 2-1 lead.
Barzal's second of the night was a killer: with Tri-City dominating the second period and outshooting the T-Birds 19-7, he stole the puck from Parker Wotherspoon, skated down and beat Sarthou to tie the score with 22 seconds left.
The teams were even in the third until Hauf received a pass from Keegan Kolesar and beat Sarthou to give Seattle a 3-2 lead with 1:39 to go. Tri-City made a late charge to tie it but could not beat Taz Burman in the final minute.
All in all it was a very exciting game against the division leaders in their home barn, and the Ams proved they can play with the best.
Tri-City has another light week, with no weeknight games for the first time since the opening week of the season. The Ams host Everett on Friday for the annual Fred Meyer Teddy Bear Toss Night. That game is always a fan-favorite and should draw one of the largest crowds all season. The Americans round out the week Saturday with a trip up Highway 395 to play the rival Chiefs, searching for their first win in Spokane this season.
Currently Tri-City sits with a record of 11-17-1-0 (23 points), fifth place in the U.S. Division. They sit three points behind fourth-place Portland (13-14-0-0, 26 points), nine behind Everett (15-9-0-2), 10 behind Spokane (15-10-2-1) and 13 behind division-leading Seattle (17-8-2-0). The Ams are three points ahead of last-place Vancouver (8-17-2-2) in the Western Conference, and sit three points behind Portland and five points behind Kamloops (12-10-3-1) for the final two playoff spots.
On the mend
Playfair played his first game in nearly a month and only his fourth of the season Saturday at Seattle. Other than that the injury list remained mostly the same, with rookie forward Kyle Olson now listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Brendan O'Reilly is still out for another month at the earliest.
Be sure to check out Tuesday's weekly Sin-Bin Podcast, where I will join Paul Rogers and Otto Rogers to talk about the Americans and other U.S. Division hockey.