The Tri-City Americans fell to 0-3 against their chief rival Spokane in 2012, suffering a 3-2 home loss Saturday at Toyota Center.
But the big discussion in the Ams locker room wasnt about how to beat the Chiefs so much as how to build on a strong third period in which Tri-City scored two goals to get back into what looked like an early rout.
There were lots of good things about the second half, Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. In the first half, we didnt play with a lot of energy. We made a few mistakes not that many, but a high percentage of them ended up in the net.
Trailing 3-0 in the third period, Tri-City gave the 4.798 fans in attendance something to cheer about, as Marcus Messier netted his fourth goal of the year with 15:07 left off assists from Lucas Nickles and Drydn Dow to cut the lead to 3-1.
The Ams continued to build some momentum later in the period. With 1:07 left, Ams winger Malte Stromwall took a pass from Connor Rankin in front of the net and flicked it past Spokane goaltender Eric Williams.
It was a great set up by Rankin. I couldnt do anything but put it in the net, Stromwall said of his sixth goal of the year. Weve been in this position before. We knew what to do. Just get one goal, and then you can get the next one.
The Americans held a 37-20 shot advantage but Spokane goaltender Eric Williams had a good night between the pipes, stopping 35 shots.
One potential concern is Tri-City dropping to 2-3-0-1 at home, an unusual trend for the Americans, who have won over 77 percent (167-42-1-6) of their games in Kennewick over the last six seasons. Their last losing season at home was in 2004-05, when the team went 14-17-3-2 at Toyota Center and finished fourth in the U.S. Division at 26-35-8-3.
But Tri-City isnt ready to panic. For one thing, the Ams (9-5-1-1, 20 points) just finished a highly successful 6-game road trip and still hold a share of the U.S. Division lead with the Chiefs (10-5-0-0, 20 points). Another thing, Spokane is a good team that was motivated for a win after two consecutive losses.
They play a great team game. Theyre not flashy, and they like to grind, Stromwall said. But if we do what were good at, well beat them.
The Chiefs showed plenty of fire early on, netting two goals late in the first period.
Jackson Playfair scored his first goal of the year at the 15:34 mark. Standing in the slot, he redirected a slapshot by Tyler King past Tri-City goalie Eric Comrie for a 1-0 lead. Just over three minutes later, Jason Fram won a loose puck along the right wing and fired a backhand pass to Mike Aviani waiting just inside the right circle, and Aviani netted his eighth goal of the year for a 2-0 lead.
Todd Fiddler scored what turned out to be the game-winner early in the second period, stealing the puck from an Ams defender at the blue line and winding up for a 25-yard slap shot that tucked neatly into the upper left corner past Comrie for a 3-0 lead.
We have a good team. Were young, too, but we work hard every day, Stromwall said. Good things are going to happen.