Ams fall to Portland 4-3

December 28, 2012 

In a matchup between two of the top young goaltenders in the Western Hockey League, Portland’s Brendan Burke got the firepower he needed up front to outduel Tri-City’s Eric Comrie on Friday night.

Taylor Peters and Oliver Bjorkstrand each had a goal and an assist, and Burke had 43 saves as the Winterhawks held on for a 4-3 victory over the Americans before a crowd of 5,335 at Toyota Center.

“The first game back after the break had a really good pace and some really nice plays,” Americans coach Jim Hiller said. “We battled hard. We were going to the net and putting it on net. Could have been a night where we had six or seven (goals).”

U.S. Division-leading Portland (30-5-1-0, 61 points) is 4-1-0-0 against Tri-City (20-13-1-2, 43 points) this season. The Winterhawks will host the Americans at 3 p.m. today at Memorial Coliseum.

“Our team, I thought, played a good team game,” said Portland coach Travis Green, who is missing three players to the World Junior Championship and two to the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. “A gutty performance by a lot of guys, and both goalies played great. We have a short layover before (today). Not a lot of time to get rested. It will be another hard-fought game against Tri.”

Portland held a 4-2 lead going into the third period and maintained that margin until late in the period. With Comrie on the bench for an extra attacker, Justin Feser scored his second goal of the night on the power play at 16:48 to pull the Americans within 4-3.

Comrie would go to the bench again for last 1:50 of the game, but the Americans were unable to put the tying goal in the net.

“I was so happy to get back on the ice again,” said Comrie, who finished with 34 saves. “I thought our D played well — our whole team played well. Brendan Burke played a hell of a game and stood tall out there.”

Trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Americans came out and pulled within 2-1 at 1:56 of the second as Connor Rankin picked up a loose puck and put it in the net for his 12th goal the season.

Just when the Americans thought they were back in the game, Taylor Leier scored at the other end just 10 seconds later to give Portland a 3-1 lead.

The Winterhawks would make good on a power play at 13:27 as Oliver Bjorkstrand took a pass from Brendan Leipsic at the top of the crease and put the puck past Comrie.

Working on the back end of a four-minute power play late in the second, the Americans finally found the net as Feser, camped out in the slot, redirected a shot from the point by Mitch Topping at 19:03 to cut Portland’s lead to 4-2.

“Feser was really good tonight,” Hiller said.

The game was scoreless through the first 10 minutes, and Leipsic looked to put the Winterhawks on the board at 10:40 after he was awarded a penalty shot at 10:40. Comrie denied Leipsic with his right skate.

Portland took a 1-0 lead at 14:31 as Taylor Peter’s shot from the right baseline found a sliver of daylight behind Comrie.

Just 3 1/2 minutes later, Peters feathered a nice pass across the crease to Kirill Vorobev, who beat Comrie for his first WHL goal at 17:56. The assist was Peters’ 100th career point.

Tri-City outshot Portland 17-13 in the first but came up empty against Burke, who is 3-0 against the Americans this season.

Notes: The WSU men’s basketball team, which will play Idaho State at Toyota Center today, took in Friday’s hockey game. ... Kamloops’ J.C. Lipon, playing for Team Canada at the WJC, was suspended one game by IIHF for his hit on Slovakia’s Tomas Mikus on Friday. He won’t be eligible to play against United States on Sunday.

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