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Tri-City Americans notebook: Two wins draw Ams closer to playoff spot

The Tri-City Americans are once again riding the wave of momentum after two impressive victories last weekend. The Ams beat division-leading Everett 2-1 behind a solid performance from goaltender Evan Sarthou on Friday. Then on Saturday the Americans poured in seven goals in an important road victory over arch rival Spokane.

The Tri-City Americans had plenty to celebrate with two big divisional wins last week.
The Tri-City Americans had plenty to celebrate with two big divisional wins last week.
Ben Nelms/Getty Images

The Tri-City Americans are once again riding the wave of momentum after two impressive victories last weekend. The Ams beat division-leading Everett 2-1 behind a solid performance from goaltender Evan Sarthou on Friday. Then on Saturday the Americans poured in seven goals in an important road victory over arch rival Spokane.Despite two losses the previous week, the Tri-City Americans could be happy with the way they performed. Zero points in two games is hard to be positive about, but those losses came against solid clubs and the Ams had chances to win both games.

Fast forward a week and the Americans are riding high again after victories over U.S. Division-leading Everett and a road victory against arch rival Spokane. It was the perfect time to pick up two of the biggest wins this season.

The Ams also made some news off the ice with the signing of another 2014 Bantam Draft pick, Riley Sawchuk. Sawchuk was picked in the sixth round and attended camp last August.

Some Tri-City alumni also made noise in the hockey world last week, with Eric Comrie named to the AHL All-Star game in his first season as a professional. Also, co-owner and owner of the retired No. 14 at the Toyota Center, Stu Barnes, will play in the WHL's 50th Season Alumni Game in Kamloops on Thursday.

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

Sarthou steals win on Military Night

Evan Sarthou posted maybe his best performance of the season, stopping 29 shots to life the Ams past division-leading Everett 2-1 on Military Night.

Tri-City sported unique jerseys to celebrate Military Night, and certainly didn't disappoint the large Friday crowd. Facing the WHL's best goalie and a top prospect in Carter Hart, the Ams were able to grab a 2-0 lead on goals from Jordan Topping (21) and Parker Wotherspoon (9).

Everett drew within a goal a few minutes after Wotherspoon's marker in the second, but Sarthou shut the door the rest of the way and earned the game's first-star award.

Something that's always fascinated me about the Silvertips is their extreme lack of undisciplined penalties. Everett has been not just near the top, but routinely sit at the top of the league for least amount of penalties taken. Friday was no different. Each club only had two minors in the game and neither converted on the special teams.

Ams dominate third, earn big victory in Spokane

After trading goals back and forth for two periods Saturday night against the Chiefs, the Americans took the game into their own hands in the third period.

Topping, Tyler Sandhu and Vladislav Lukin all scored in the third period to help Tri-City pull away and beat arch rival Spokane 7-3 in an impressive road victory.

Lukin was the star against Spokane. He scored twice, both coming from identical wrist-shots from the top of the left faceoff circle. Both were sniped into the top corner, just under the crossbar. He also added two assists but for some odd reason was snubbed from the game's 3-star awards.

Each time the Ams grabbed a lead, Spokane answered. Tri-City lead 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 but Spokane never wasted time in tying the game all three times.

But the third period was a different story. Topping extended the lead to 5-3 only 1:06 into the period, and Spokane never really threatened to draw any closer. Spokane (and former Tri-City) head coach Don Nachbaur pulled his goalie with over 3 minutes left, and Sandhu converted an empty netter. Lukin later poured more salt into the wound for the 9,839 in attendance, minus the Tri-City contingent ringing their cowbells all night.

Standings

After Sunday night's games, the Americans still sit in fifth place in the U.S. Division. Tri-City is 22-25-2-0 (46 points), six points behind Portland (25-23-2-0), seven points behind Spokane (24-20-3-2), 11 behind Seattle (27-19-3-0) and 16 behind division-leading Everett (29-16-2-2). The Ams are eight points behind seventh-place Kamloops and six behind eighth-place Portland in the race for the final two Western Conference wild-card spots.

Upcoming

The Ams ride the momentum into a trio of home games this week. Kamloops visits on Tuesday in a pivotal matchup in the playoff race. Victoria (31-15-2-3, 67 points, 2nd in B.C. Division) comes calling on Friday before the Ams host arch rival Spokane for the first time since the Chiefs spoiled the Americans' New Year's Eve.

On the mend

Rookie forward Michael Rasmussen returned to the lineup two weeks ago after recovering from an illness. He missed four games. Outside of his absence, the club is finally staying healthy and finding its stride.

Ams sign another prospect

The club announced it has signed a standard WHL contract with 2014 Bantam Draft pick Riley Sawchuk. Sawchuk, picked in the sixth round in 2014, is having an outstanding season in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, posting 22 goals and 21 assists in only 35 games.

Barnes to play in WHL Pro Am Alumni Game

Former Ams star and current co-owner of the club, Stu Barnes, is one of three former Tri-City Americans who will play in the WHL's 50th Season Pro Am Alumni Game. The game will be played in Kamloops on Thursday night. Other former Americans participating are goaltender Steve Passmore (1988-90) and defenseman Evan Marble (1992-93).

Comrie named to AHL All-Star Game

Former Tri-City goaltender Eric Comrie will play in the AHL's All-Star game after being named a replaced for Manitoba Moose teammate Connor Hellebuyck. Comrie is having a fine rookie season in the AHL, despite his Moose being the worst club in the league with only 29 points in 43 games. He's posted a 9-17-5 record with a 2.98 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. The AHL All-Star game is on Monday in Syracuse, N.Y.