Americans win 3-0, send Spokane to sixth

March 15, 2014 

There’s nothing like spoiling your biggest rival’s playoff plans.

Jessey Astles and Parker Bowles each had a goal and an assist, and Eric Comrie posted his fourth shutout of the season as the Tri-City Americans roughed up the Spokane Chiefs 3-0 on Saturday night before a raucous Toyota Center crowd of 5,715.

“Last night we played for 45 minutes. Tonight, we played from start to finish,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. “That game showed we can beat Kelowna. It was our best game this year start to finish.”

The Americans (29-32-4-6, 68 points), hosting their sixth annual Go Green for MDA Night, improved to 2-4 amongst the shamrocks, with all games against the Chiefs. Tri-City’s only other win was March 19, 2011.

Saturday was the final regular-season game for the Chiefs (40-26-3-3, 86 points), who fell to sixth in the Western Conference standings. A win would have had them in the running for fourth/fifth.

Spokane will face Victoria in the first round of the playoffs.

Comrie, who only faced 18 shots on the night, recorded his ninth career shutout, tying him for third all-time with Drew Owsley (2008-11).

“I thought that was the best defensive effort I have seen all year,” Comrie said. “We know where we are in the standings. Tonight, we played for our fans. They have been behind us all year. We owe them a lot.”

Astles, who had two goals Friday in a 4-3 shootout loss at Spokane, got the party started Saturday, scoring late in the first period.

The rugged forward picked off a pass by Spokane’s Matt Sozanski intended for Cole Wedman, and headed up ice.

He outskated Wedman and Marcus Messier and put the puck on net. He was a little off the mark, but gathered the loose puck and slid it in the net past Eric Williams at 14:24 for his 11th goal of the season.

“It was fun,” Astles said of the play. “I like to fake, he bit and I swept it in. The crowd was so loud tonight, it kept the tempo going.”

The Chiefs were limited to five shots on goal in the first, with their best scoring chance coming at 12:29, but Comrie robbed Markson Bechtold with a glove save.

The Americans, who have the 20th ranked power play in the WHL, found a little Irish luck on the man advantage in the second period with a pair of goals.

Bowles gave the Americans a 2-0 lead at 5:48, snagging a rebound off a shot by Michal Plutnar and beating Williams stick side and bringing a roar from the crowd.

“Pluts shot (the puck) through the five-hole and it was just staring at me,” Bowles said. “I just tapped it in. It was an amazing atmosphere here tonight. I just loved it.”

Working on their second power play of the period, Beau McCue potted his 20th goal of the season, taking a feed from Bowles from behind the net and beating Williams at 9:27.

After surrendering three goals on 14 shots, Williams took a seat on the bench in favor of Garret Hughson.

Holding a 3-0 lead after two periods, the Americans held the Chiefs to four shots on goal in the third to pick up their fourth win against Spokane this season.

Notes: Americans D-man Josh Thrower played his 100th game. ... Saturday was the eighth time this season the Chiefs have been shut out — three each by Seattle and Portland and twice by Tri-City.

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