After an embarrassing loss to Calgary on Tuesday, the Tri-City Americans needed a statement game at home to earn back the trust of their fans.
Did they ever deliver Saturday night.
Connor Rankin had a two goals and an assist, and Troy Trombley had 34 saves for a shutout in just his second start as the Americans pummeled the Spokane Chiefs 6-0 before a raucous crowd of 5,449 at Toyota Center.
The win at Portland (on Friday) gave us confidence for tonight, Rankin said. We wanted to have one of these games in front of our fans. We felt the love.
Trombley, who has been with the team for a couple of weeks, won both of his starts over the weekend.
I dont even know what to say, Trombley said. It has been way too good for me. The team has put in a lot of work for me. With the big team win against Portland, that gave me confidence for today.
The Americans (33-32-1-2, 69 points) won for the second night in a row and leapfrogged Victoria into fifth place in the Western Conference standings.
For the guys in our room, that is the definition of a great weekend, said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team knocked off Portland the top-ranked team in the CHL and their biggest rival.
The Chiefs (34-22-2-0, 70 points) held onto fourth place, but coach Don Nachbaur was not pleased with his teams effort.
They earned it and we got what we deserved, Nachbaur said. It was pretty obvious one team prepared for a war and one team came looking for an easy game. Their nine forwards outskated our 12. They wanted it more than we did.
It didnt take long for the Americans to exert their dominance, exploding for four goals in the first period, scoring even strength, on the power play and short-handed.
Connor Rankin put the Americans on the board at 3:38, winning a face-off against Spokanes Dylan Walchuk to the left of Chiefs goalie Eric Williams. Rankin batted the puck toward the net and watched it beat Williams far side.
The line of Lucas Nickles, Tyson Dallman and Marcus Messier used its speed to give Tri-City a 2-0 lead four minutes later.
Messier came streaming down the ice and while his shot was off the mark, Dallman picked up the puck off the back wall and fed Nickles out front for his eighth goal of the season.
Rankin was back on the scoreboard late in the period, taking a beautiful pass across the crease by Malte Strömwall and beating Williams stick side at 16:07 on the power play for a 3-0 lead.
Working on the back end of a penalty kill, Justin Feser knocked the puck loose from Spokanes Carter Proft and headed up ice. His shot ricocheted off Williams right pad, but Messier was there for the rebound and an easy goal with 14.9 seconds left in the period.
The Chiefs had back-to-back power plays late in the first, including 39 seconds 5-on-3, and while they had a flurry of shots, they could not get anything past Trombley.
We have been pretty lucky around here with the goaltending weve had, Hiller said. With Eric (Comrie), Luke (Lee-Knight) and now Troy, albeit two games. This is such a tough league. Im so glad for Luke and Troy. These guys were playing Jr. A and now they are excelling in the league.
The goals kept coming in the second with Brian Williams netting his 19th of the season at 6:00.
At 13:05, Rankin just missed on a chance for a hat trick. He was hit behind the net and bedlam ensued.
Rankin took on Todd Fiddler, Williams dropped gloves with Blake Gal, and Mitch Topping and Spokane goalie Garret Hughson traded blows. The rest of the players on the ice, except Trombley, got in on the action, but no additional penalties were handed out.
Fiddler threw the first punch, I think, Rankin said with a smile. Ive had a hat trick before, but this is my first Gordie Howe.
Once the waters calmed, the Americans were back in overdrive.
Parker Bowles, who assisted on Williams goal, picked up a loose puck off the wall, skated around Spokane defensemen Adam Power and Cole Wedman and beat Hughson for his 19th goal.
Friday, the Americans signed prospect Fraser Bulbuc, 17, to a standard WHL players contract. Bulbuc, from Sherwood Park, Alberta, is playing with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the AJHL. He has two goals, five assists and 127 penalty minutes in 43 games. Bulbuc will join the team today and stay through Saturday, when the Americans play host to Vancouver, Everett and Edmonton. ... Portlands Taylor Peters, who checked Tri-Citys Justin Gutierrez into the boards Friday night and was ejected from the game, is facing suspension from the WHL. No length of suspension has been announced. Gutierrez was scratched Saturday.