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Tri-City Americans notebook: Ams split weekend divisional games

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The Tri-City Americans earned a huge 2-0 victory over U.S. Division-leading Everett on Friday night. But a trip to Spokane on Saturday proved too much as the Chiefs rode three first-period goals to a 4-2 win. With a pair of Kamloops losses, the Ams are still only three points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Head Coach Mike Williamson's club has surged the past few weeks.
Head Coach Mike Williamson's club has surged the past few weeks.
Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

The Tri-City Americans added Everett to the list of top WHL teams they beat during a string of recent success. Evan Sarthou stole the show on home ice Friday night, stopping every shot he faced in an important 2-0 victory over the division-leading Silvertips.

It was the 8th win in 10 games for Tri-City. It also pulled the Ams within three points of Spokane and four of Kamloops in the playoff race.

But the Chiefs got their revenge on Saturday, using three first-period goals en route to a 4-2 win on home ice. It was the Chiefs first win in the series since a 5-2 win on New Year's Eve in Kennewick. The Ams had won three in a row in the series, mostly by decisive margins.

All in all, with a win over the division-leaders, the week wasn't largely disappointing. The absence of rookie Finnish defenseman Juuso Valimaki was certainly noticed in Saturday's loss. But his imminent return should help fill some recent holes defensively.

Here's a quick recap of the pair of games last week....

Sarthou finding grove, earns huge shutout

Sporting special uniforms and a pink ice surface for Breast Cancer Awareness Night, the Americans picked up one of their biggest wins of the season behind Sarthou's heroics.

Sarthou stood on his head in the third and the Ams held on for the 2-1 win. He stopped all 15 shots as the Silvertips were relentless in their quest to score. Everett outshot Tri-City 15-1 in the final frame.

Mackenze Stewart got the Ams on the board in the first when he buried a shot past Carter Hart, who was sprawling to get back into the crease after misplaying the pick. Parker Bowles padded his team-lead in the goal department just seconds into the second period. Bowles, who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, was on the receiving end of a nifty centering pass from captain Beau McCue.

From there it was all about Sarthou. He finished the game with 33 saves to earn first-star honors.

Chiefs explode in first, hold on for win

Spokane burst out of the gate with three goals in the first period before the Americans could even get comfortable en route to a 4-2 victory.

The Ams also weren't helped by the five (that's right, FIVE) power plays they allowed in the first period. Spokane only scored on one of the five chances, but by the end of the period the Americans were huffing and puffing and out of energy.

The second was a different story. Goals from the Parkers (Wotherspoon and Bowles) brought Tri-City back within 3-2 near the end of the second. But special teams were a factor again in the third, with Spokane's Hudson Elynuik potting a shorthanded goal that provided the final margin. Sarthou stopped 17 of 21 shots he faced.

Standings

Tri-City (28-27-2-1, 59 points) is still in 5th place in the U.S. Division and 9th in the Western Conference, but continues to inch closer towards a playoff spot. The Ams are five points behind Spokane (28-23-5-3), six behind Portland (31-25-3-0), eight behind Seattle (32-23-3-0) and 15 points behind division-leading Everett (35-20-2-02). Tri-City is four points back of Kamloops (27-24-5-4) and five behind Spokane for the final two playoff spots.

Upcoming

Tri-City hosts Prince George on Tuesday to start another busy week. The Ams then host Seattle on Friday and Prince George again on Saturday. The week ends with a trip to division-leading Everett on Sunday, the first of four straight road games within the U.S. Division.

On the mend

One new injury I missed last week was to rookie defenseman Juuso Valimaki. He's been out of the lineup the past four games with an upper-body injury. He's expected to be out for another couple weeks. Valimaki has been a crucial part of the defensive unit, and his absence was certainly noticed Saturday. Austyn Playfair is also out with an upper-body injury and will miss a couple weeks Rookie forward Kyle Olson returned to the injury report with a lower-body injury. Olson has only played in 19 games this season.