Tri-City topples Thunderbirds in Kennewick
Seattle goalie Liam Hughes did everything within his power to give the Thunderbirds a chance to win Wednesday night in Kennewick, but it wouldn’t be enough.
The Thunderbirds were blitzed in the first 40 minutes of play, getting out shot 38-14 to start the game. Hughes made many spectacular saves to keep Seattle within striking distance, but a late goal in the second period would put Tri-City up two goals as the Americans would go on to a 4-2 win at the Toyota Center.
Jordan Topping scored twice for Tri-City as the Americans had Seattle on its heels early and often.
Despite the shot disparity, Hughes and the Thunderbirds were hanging around and had tied the game twice in the second period and were only trailing by one as the period wound down. Tri-City (30-21-7-1) would strike a back-breaking blow on a late power-play chance when Michael Rasmussen tipped his 23rd of the season past Hughes with just six seconds left in the period to give the Americans their two-goal cushion.
The Americans would end the night 1-for-3 with the man advantage while Seattle failed on all three of its power-play attempts.
Seattle (28-22-7-2) dealt with a long travel day – the team bus broke down on Snoqualmie pass causing the game to be delayed 30 minutes – and with some missing veterans from the lineup. Blake Bargar, Jaxon Kaluski and Sami Moilanen were all out of the lineup and in their place rookies Graeme Bryks and Payton Mount were recalled to fill in.
With juggled lines the Thunderbirds were out of sync all night and despite a better push in the third period, were not able to overcome the two-goal deficit.
Topping opened the scoring for Tri-City when he finished a tic-tac-toe passing play from Rasmussen and Jake Bean to give the Americans the lead at 10:56 of the first period.
A strong forecheck 17 seconds into the second period set up Seattle for a game-tying marker. Turner Ottenbreit forced a bad pass that Austin Strand picked up and fired a quick shot for his 20th goal of the year.
The momentum from that early goal was short-lived as Nolan Yaremko split the Seattle defense just two minutes later and snapped his 18th past Hughes to reinstate the Americans lead. Hughes ended the night with 41 saves on 45 Tri-City shots.
Seattle would again tie the game at 5:31 of the period when Jaret Tyszka took advantage of a Matthew Wedman screen in front of goalie Patrick Dea and wired his eighth of the season. Dea would pick up the win for Tri-City by stopping 26 Seattle shots.
With the score tied at two, the Americans poured it on and despite Hughes’ best efforts they would get their lead back at 9:51 when Topping put back his own rebound for his second of the night and 34th on the season.
That set up the late Rasmussen goal and the Americans were on their way to a home victory.
With the win, Tri-City pulled three points ahead of Seattle in the U.S. Division standings while the Kamloops Blazers – who won in Portland Tuesday – inched closer to the Thunderbirds and trail by six points for the conference’s last playoff spot.
The Thunderbirds will next travel to Kelowna for a Friday night tilt with the Rockets before hosting Everett on Saturday night.
• Bargar was listed as ‘TBD’ on the WHL weekly injury report so the severity of his injury is still unknown.
• With Strand hitting the 20-goal mark on Tuesday, the Thunderbirds have had at least three players reach that mark in three straight seasons. Along with Strand, Nolan Volcan has 25 and Zack Andrusiak has 23. Donovan Neuls is one away with 19 markers.
• Tuesday was the seventh time this season that Topping has had a multiple goal game.
• Rasmussen added an assist to go along with his big goal in the second-period. He has 23 assists on the year, tying his career best set last season.