Getting healthy and stacking together wins has drawn the Tri-City Americans closer to the 8th and final playoff spot in the WHL's Western Conference.
Tri-City matched its season best three-game win streak with home victories over Saskatoon, Regina and Vancouver. Not necessarily the best competition, but the Ams were able to do what they needed against teams near the bottom of the standings.
Here's a recap of the past three Ams games, along with some team notes:
Ams hold off late Saskatoon rally for 4-3 win
Jordan Topping and Max James scored short-handed goals on the same penalty to break a scoreless tie in the second and Tri-City fended off a late rush to beat Saskatoon 4-3 Friday.
Parker Bowles added his team-leading 25th goal for a 3-0 lead, and Topping added his second of the night for a 4-1 lead in the third. But the Blades never quit, potting goals two minutes apart to draw within 4-3 with 11 minutes left. Evan Sarthou shut the door late to seal the win.
Ams win after record 10-round shootout
Brandon Carlo scored in the 10th round on his first career shootout attempt and Sarthou made 10 straight saves to give the Ams a 5-4 win Saturday over Regina.
Carlo's goal was the only goal in all 10 rounds, meaning the two goalies combined to stop an impressive 19 of 20 shootout attempts.
Twice in the game Regina overcame two-goal deficits, erasing a 2-0 hole with two quick goals in the second and two in a span of two minutes to tie it 4-4 in the third. Other than those two short patches, the Ams were the better team all night, pouring 40 shots on the Pats' Tyler Brown.
Dylan Coghlan (3), Morgan Geekie (6), Topping (18) and Kyle Olson (3) scored for Tri-City. Sarthou stopped 29 of 33 shots during regulation and overtime.
Balanced scoring continues in win over Giants
The momentum from the weekend continued Tuesday in a 5-1 romping of visiting Vancouver. Five different Ams scored in the game: Vladislav Lukin (13), Bowles (26), Tyler Sandhu (10), Beau McCue (18) and Austyn Playfair (2).
Sarthou picked up another win in goal, stopping 31 of 32 shots in arguably his best performance of the season. He was named the game's first star.
The Ams also scored their third shorthanded goal in the past three games when Playfair potted his second of the season. Playfair later fought the Giants' Dmitry Osipov in his first fight since the Ams' home opener in early October. Newcomer Mackenze Stewart was also in a fight, his first as an American.
Tri-City now stands with a record of 20-23-2-0 (42 points), 9thplace in the Western Conference and 5th place in the U.S. Division. The Ams are three points behind Spokane (20-18-3-2), six behind Portland (23-20-2-0), 11 behind Seattle (25-16-3-0) and 16 behind division-leading Everett (27-12-2-2). Tri-City is nine points behind Kamloops (22-15-4-3, 7th in West) and three behind Spokane for the final playoff spot.
Tri-City begins an odd weekend-trip by heading north to Kelowna (30-11-3-0, 63 points, 1st in B.C. Division and 1st in Western Conference) on Friday and back down to Portland on Sunday.
On the mend
The injury list is as small as it's been all season for the Americans. Returning to the lineup recently was defenseman Brendan O'Reilly, a huge addition to a blue line that's been decimated by injury all year. Kyle Olson has also played well since his return, and is seeing lots of time on the power-play. Head coach Mike Williamson and staff have obviously been impressed with the play-making abilities of the rookie Olson.
Sarthou, Coghlan included in NHL Central Scouting Rankings
Sarthou was listed as the 9th-ranked goaltender in North American in the recent midterm rankings, released by the NHL Central Scouting earlier this week, while Coghlan was listed as the 177th-ranked skater. Tri-City prospect Tyler Jette, from Minnesota, was the 168th-ranked skater.
Ams sign prospect Bjorklund
The Ams announced Wednesday the signing of 2015 Bantam Draft pick Paycen Bjorklund. Bjorklund was a second-round pick last spring, and scored the winning goal in overtime during the annual Blue-White scrimmage during training camp.