The Tri-City Americans finished their six-game trip through the East Division on Saturday, getting the game winner from Connor Rankin with 3:20 remaining in regulation for a 2-1 win over the Swift Current Broncos at Credit Union i-Plex.
Tri-City (9-3-1-1, 20 points), which has points in 10 consecutive games, has a three-point lead over Portland in the U.S. Division standings.
The Americans were 5-0-1-0 on the swing through Manitoba and Saskatoon, earning 11 of a possible 12 points. They return to the ice Friday at Seattle their eighth consecutive road game before hosting Spokane on Saturday.
We are starting to head home, though I dont know why we are in a hurry, said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller in a phone interview. The red bus has been pretty good to us. The players understand they are a good team and they can do big things. A great challenge for us to get a point in every building.
Rankin, who had a goal in five of the six games out East, picked up a rebound and put the puck past Broncos goalie Eetu Laurikainen to break a 1-all tie.
After a slow start (one goal in first eight games), he was in a good frame of mind. He was positive, Hiller said of Rankin. Hes such a good player, it was just a matter of time. Hes playing as well as hes played since hes been here.
Swift Current (5-4-3-1, 14 points) pulled Laurikainen with 1:22 left in the game, but could not get the puck past Eric Comrie, who finished with 24 saves.
The game was scoreless through the first two periods as Comrie turned aside 14 shots and Laurikainen 13.
They are two of the top goalies in the league, Hiller said. There werent a lot of great chances tonight, but both goalies were there when there were. The last couple of nights Eric has had the least amount of work of the trip and that worked out well.
Mitch Topping finally solved Laurikainen in the third, beating the Finnish goalie at 10:47 on the power play off a nifty pass from Phil Tot. Topping also had an assist on Rankins goal.
The Broncos came back less than 2 minutes later, as Chance Lund turned a Tri-City turnover into a tie game.
The Americans are 4-1-0-0 against Swift Current over the last five years. ... Tri-City has won nine in a row against Seattle, and has a four-game win streak in Kent dating back to last season. ... Kamloops is the only team in the WHL which has not lost in regulation this season. The Blazers improved to 12-0-0-1 (25 points) Saturday with a 6-3 road win over the Kootenay Ice.