Americans snap seven-game losing streak

By Annie Fowler, Herald staff writerJanuary 3, 2014 

It’s been 10 years since the Tri-City Americans have lost eight games in a row. They intend to make it another 10.

Lucas Nickles had a goal and an assist and Eric Comrie finished with 37 saves as the Americans ended a seven-game skid with a 5-1 win over the Portland Winterhawks before a Friday night crowd of 4,209 at Toyota Center.

“We scored some nice goals,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. “We have been snake bitten the last week. You aren’t going to get shut down as long as we have when you are creating good opportunities.”

The Americans (18-18-2-2) are off until Sunday when they play at Vancouver.

Portland (25-11-2-2), which leads the U.S. Division with 54 points, lost three games in a row for the first time since Jan. 18-21, 2012.

The Americans controlled the game from the start, and Comrie had a nice view of his team pouring in the goals at the other end.

“That was unbelievable,” Comrie said. “All the guys chipped in. Jordan (Davies) got his first goal and that was awesome to see. It’s always fun to see when the guys drop five and give the fans a little Burger Ranch.”

The Americans had a comfy 3-0 lead after two periods, and Beau McCue made it 4-0 at 3:58 of the third, and Brian Williams finished things off at 6:20.

The Winterhawks, avoided being shutout for the first time since 2011 — a span of 198 games — when Chase De Leo found the net with just under 12 minutes left in the game.

“Our defense corps was outstanding,” Comrie said. “They kept everything to the outside and our forwards were backchecking hard. It’s fun to see when everything works out.”

Clinging to a 1-0 lead after the first period against the highest scoring team in the WHL, the Americans padded their lead to take a 3-0 lead at the end of the second.

Nickles picked up the puck to the right of Comrie, circled around the net, and went coast-to-coast, using his speed to weave his way around the Winterhawks before beating Brendan Burke at 10:44.

“When I got it behind the net, I saw De Leo close by,” Nickles said. “I chipped it by him and I cut to the far boards. Right when I got the puck, I knew I wanted to cut back in the middle and take a shot. It was all there. It was just me and the D-men.”

Davies, playing just his fourth game, scored his first WHL goal at 15:02 to make it 3-0.

Portland’s Josh Hanson had sent the puck up the right wall, where Davies intercepted. He took the puck into the face-off circle and beat Burke between his pads.

“It’s so surreal, especially playing against Portland,” said Davies, who was in training camp with the Winterhawks in the fall. “It made it that much better. I pinched in and waited the goalie out. I actually fanned on the puck. I wanted to go top right and it went five-hole.”

The goals were nice, but Hiller also noted another key play in the period.

“I thought the other important moment in the game was when Hubie (Jeff Hubic) stiffened up (Keegan) Iverson on the rush attack in the second period. I thought that made a statement that we were here to play.”

Portland outshot Tri-City 16-9 in the first period, but it would be the Americans with a 1-0 lead.

Working on the tail end of a power play, Phil Tot took a pass from behind the net from Nickles and beat Burke at 7:28 for his 10th goal of the season.

“I saw him coming in toward the net and the D-man was coming down to pressure me,” Nickles said. “As soon as I got around the net I saw him there. It was kind of a hop pass. It was a nice goal.”

Tri-City F Braden Purtill and Team West defeated Germany 4-3 to capture ninth place at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. ... In the semifinals, Tri-City F Ty Comrie and D Parker Wotherspoon helped Team West defeat Russia 7-3 and will play the United States in today’s gold medal game. Wotherspoon had two assists against the Russians. ... The Moose Jaw Warriors acquired D Spenser Jensen, 18, from the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for a third and a sixth-round pick 2014 WHL bantam draft, and a conditional pick in 2016.

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