Jim Hiller isnt much of a gambler, but when the game was on the line, the Tri-City Americans head coach pulled an ace out of his pocket.
After Hiller twice pulled goaltender Luke Lee-Knight, Justin Feser tied the score late in the third period, then added the game-winner 27 seconds into overtime to rally the Americans to a 4-3 win Saturday over the Seattle Thunderbirds at ShoWare Center in Kent.
We werent in it for 40 minutes, said Hiller, whose team won all three games during the week. We got after it the last 20 and got on the bus with a win. We were short-handed tonight, but we got a lot from a lot of people. The penalty kill and goaltending gave us a lot. Lucas Nickles had his best game.
It was a good week. This is a tough time of the year, and the pressure increases week after week.
Tri-City (31-19-1-2, 65 points), which won its fifth consecutive road game, opened up a three-point lead over Spokane. The Chiefs were shut out 4-0 at Portland on Saturday.
The Americans, fourth in the Western Conference standings, are 10 points behind third-place Kamloops. They are 18-9-1-0 on the road, second to Portland (20-3-1-1).
The Americans trailed 3-2 with 2:48 remaining in regulation, and they were on the power play when Hiller pulled Lee-Knight. The man advantage was short-lived as Malte Strömwall went off for hooking at 17:53.
Playing 4-on-4, Hiller pulled Lee-Knight once again, and Fesers one-timer off a feed from Mitch Topping beat Brandon Glover from the high slot to tie the score at 18:27.
The Americans killed off the remainder of Seattles power play, and the game went to overtime.
Strömwall set up Feser with the game-winner, finishing the game with a goal and an assist.
The clock was ticking, and we had only gotten a couple through 55 minutes. Hiller said of pulling Lee-Knight. We just needed a little extra help. (Fesers) first one was a big bomb in the slot, and a nice pass by Malte on the second.
Parker Bowles also scored for the Americans, who got two assists from Drydn Dow and 32 saves from Lee-Knight, who made his 13th consecutive start.
Seth Swenson led Seattle (19-29-4-1, 43 points) with a goal and an assist, while Connor Sanvido and Jesse Forsberg also scored goals. Glover finished with 24 saves.