Americans lose to Everett, hold ground in playoff race

Annie Fowler, Tri-City Herald

March 7, 2014 

Tri City Americans vs Everett Silvertips 3/7/2014

Everett Silvertips goalie Austin Lotz stops a shot from the Americans Jessey Astles in the first period of Friday's game.

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The Tri-City Americans are not ones to chant Go Chiefs Go, but their neighbors to the north gave them a helping hand Friday night, so just this once, it would be OK.

The Americans dropped a 4-2 game to the Everett Silvertips before a crowd of 4,757 at Toyota Center. But with Spokane beating Prince George, Tri-City kept its four-point lead over the Cougars for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Any combination of three points — Tri-City wins or Prince George losses — and the Americans would secure a playoff spot for the 11th year in a row. The Americans have five games remaining, while the Cougars have three.

The Americans (28-31-3-5, 64 points) got an infusion of energy Friday with the return of rugged forward Jessey Astles, who missed seven games because of a WHL suspension, but it wasn’t enough to rally past the Silvertips, who won the season series against Tri-City 6-2-0-0.

“I thought we had a lot of good efforts,” said Americans coach Jim Hiller. “We just needed a bounce at the end. Having Jessey back made a difference. This time of year we need those big, strong guys to make a difference.”

Everett (35-23-7-2, 79 points), which has points in its last eight games, trails fifth-place Spokane by one point in the standings.

“The best move of the game was getting a lead,” said Everett coach Kevin Constantine. “They play well at home and are battling for a playoff spot.”

It didn’t take Astles long to get back in the swing of things. He had two shots on goal and three hits in the first period.

“Seven games is a long time, it will get to you,” Astles said. “I paid the consequences for what I did. Now I’m back and hopefully we can get that last push. Everett is a good team with good D and they move the puck well. We came up short tonight, but we battled hard.”

Everett turned a tie game into a 3-1 lead with goals by Ivan Nikolishin and Logan Aasman in the second period.

Nikolishin scored into a wide open net behind Comrie on a power play at 8:30, while Aasman lifted the puck over an Americans player who went down to block the puck and into the net at 18:31.

But just like they did in the first, the Americans scored with less than a minute left in the period to pull within 3-2.

Working in the corner to the left of Everett goalie Austin Lotz, Ty Comrie sent the puck up top to defenseman Michal Plutnar, who fed Lucas Nickles down low. Nickles’ shot sent the puck off Lotz’s right pad and into the net with just 15.9 seconds left in the period.

The score remained 3-2 until the waning seconds of the third period.

The Americans pulled goalie Eric Comrie for an extra attacker with 3:07 left in the game. Tri-City had sustained pressure in Everett’s zone, but couldn’t get the puck past Lotz, who finished with 32 saves.

“The last two games, they have pulled their goalie early,” Constantine said. “At our place it was with 4 minutes to go and they scored. Tonight, there was 3 minutes to go. They were close.”

Brayden Low sealed the win for Everett with an empty-net goal with 12.4 seconds left on the clock.

“We had our chances,” said Hiller, whose team outshot Everett 15-9 in the third period. “We created enough, but we had ones bounce wide and off the pads.”

The Silvertips opened the scoring just 1:14 into the game as Matt Fonteyne brought the puck up ice to the left of Eric Comrie. His innocent backhanded shot found its way through Comrie’s pads for a 1-0 lead.

The Americans struck back with 52 seconds left in the period.

Astles trapped the puck against the boards to keep it in the zone, then shuffled it down to Justin Gutierrez in the corner. Gutierrez drove to the net, and as Lotz committed to the left post, he had an open net far side for his third goal of the season and a tie game.

Comrie finished with 34 saves. He needs 41 to surpass Aaron Baker’s single-season save mark of 1,825.

Note: Everett’s Kohl Bauml suffered a compound fracture to his tibia Tuesday in the Silvertips’ 5-1 win over Kelowna and likely is done for the rest of the season.

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