Americans fall to Chiefs 6-2 in WHL opener

Annie Fowler, Herald staff writerSeptember 21, 2013 

Americans open season against Spokane

Tri-City's Philip Tot (17) and Taylo Vickerman (22) pressure Spokane's Tyler King as they play their season opener against on Saturday at Toyota Center in Kennewick.

PAUL T. ERICKSON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Mitch Holmberg has played his share of games against the Tri-City Americans during his first four seasons in the Western Hockey League, and it never gets old.

With his career coming to a close, Spokane’s veteran forward started his final season with a bang Saturday, scoring three goals in a 6-2 victory as the Chiefs spoiled the Americans’ home opener at Toyota Center.

“It’s such a battle between the two teams,” said Holmberg, who also had an assist. “I don’t think it gets old, I think it gets to the point where you know each other a little bit more. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. You learn how to read them.”

It was the second consecutive year the Chiefs spoiled the Americans’ home opener. Tri-City, which had a long history of winning their home openers, saw the streak end at 11 last year when the Chiefs skated away with a 5-2 win.

“I thought we were overhelmed early, but when we got back to 4-2, I thought we were pushing a bit,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “The fifth goal, then the air went out of the tires. I think it was a rude awaking for some of our players — the veterans too. Some have bigger roles than they had last year and with that comes a great responsibility. I don’t think we lived up to that today. The only good thing about today, is there is always another day.”

The Americans will try to get back on track tonight when they host the Prince George Cougars.

The Chiefs wasted no time in taking control of the game Saturday as Connor Chartier put Spokane on the board at 5:30 of the first period.

Holmberg followed with a pair of goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds for a 3-0 lead.

“I think I was fortunate to get those bounces,” Holmberg said. “It wasn’t Comrie’s fault. It was just lucky bounces off the pads or the puck just sneaking in on the backside.”

Liam Stewart added to the total, taking a pass from behind the net from Chartier and beating Comrie from the top of the circles to make it 4-0 just 11:19 into the game.

“I thought a lot of kids played well,” said Spokane coach Don Nachbaur. “That’s as a good a first period we’ve had in this building in a long time. For sure on opening night. The kids were motivated and got the job done. It was nice to come out of here with a victory.”

The Americans battled back late in the period to get the goose egg off the scoreboard as Beau McCue’s shot from the far side of the left circle beat Eric Williams at 16:45 on the power play.

The Americans pulled within 4-2 at 13:27 of the second period as Brian Williams knocked the puck way from Spokane’s Colton Bobyk, skated in on Eric Williams and shot the puck.

The Chiefs goalie blocked the shot, but the puck went into the slot where Taylor Vickerman picked it up and blasted it into the net.

But just when things were starting to look up for the Americans, the Chiefs came right back with a pair of goals.

Mike Aviani deflected a shot by Reid Gow past Comrie at 18:01, and Holmberg finished off his hat trick with 4.7 seconds left in the period.

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