Michael Rasmussen has been a little under the weather this week, but you wouldn’t know it by his play Saturday night.
Rasmussen scored a natural hat trick to open the game, and added another goal in the second period as the Tri-City Americans ended a four-year drought on opening night with an 8-3 victory over the Spokane Chiefs before a crowd of 4,352 at Toyota Center.
The Americans last won a home opener on Sept. 24, 2011 — a 4-1 victory over the Chiefs. Tri-City is 17-11-0-1 in home openers.
“It’s a great way to start, for sure,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. “We had a lot of guys play well tonight. Our defense played strong and hounded the puck. I liked our work ethic tonight.”
Not since Brendan Shinnimin scored four goals in a 5-1 victory at Seattle on Feb. 26, 2012, has an Americans player put on such a scoring display.
“I think it was a good start for all of us,” Rasmussen said. “Shinnimin is a legend around here. I had a lot of help from my teammates tonight. We wanted to come out strong and show the fans that last year wasn’t good enough. This was a good start.”
Rasmussen’s performance overshadowed teammate Vladislav Lukin, who had a hat trick of his own, and three assists.
“I’m just shocked,” Lukin said of his first hat trick in the WHL. “It was good work by the whole team. It was a special time tonight.”
Tyler Sandhu and Parker AuCoin each had three assists to add to the festivities.
Rasmussen scored his first goal at 2:34 on the power play, taking a crisp pass from Juuso Välimäki for easy goal behind Spokane goalie Jayden Sittler.
The Americans would take a 2-0 lead 10:39 on the man advantage as Sandhu hit Rasmussen to the left of Sittler, and the 6-foot-5 Rasmussen lifted the puck into the net.
If twice is nice, three times is better.
Rasmussen finished off his first career hat trick at 16:22, beating Sittler backdoor once again for a 3-0 lead that would stand until the end of the first period.
“Any time you have success, it’s fun,” Rasmussen said.
Spokane scored three power-play goals in the second period, but Tri-City kept a hold on the lead with two goals by Lukin and Rasmussen’s fourth, when he picked up a rebound in front of Sittler and put the puck in the net to give the Americans a 6-3 lead.
“He scored a lot last year around the net,” Williamson said of Rasmussen. “Razzy has the willingness to go there. Not all players do.”
Tri-City’s Morgan Geekie chipped in a goal in the third for a 7-3 lead, and Lukin finished the scoring with 2:40 left in the game.
“It’s alwaysnice for guys to get those point,” Williamson said. “They were excited for each other.”
The Americans will play at Portland on Sunday. The Winterhawks beat Seattle 7-3 on Saturday.
Americans 8, Chiefs 3
First — 1, TC, Rasmussen 1 (Välimäki, Lukin), 2:34 (pp). 2, TC, Rasmussen 2 (Sandhu, Lukin), 10:39 (pp). 3, TC, Rasmussen 3 (Sandhu), 16:22. Penalties — Smith, Spo (interference), 1:50; Bechtold, Spo (boarding), 6:17; Anderson-Dolan, Spo (high-sticking), 9:03; Hamaliuk, Spo (roughing), 9:56; Geekie, TC (roughing), 9:56; Välimäki, TC (interference), 12:54; Fiala, Spo (high-sticking), 15:55; O’Reilly, TC (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:55; Faith, Spo (roughing), 20:00; Helgesen, Spo (roughing), 20:00; O’Reilly, TC (roughing, misconduct), 20:00.
Second — 4, Spo, Ka.Yamamoto 1 (Ke.Yamamoto, Smith), 4:47 (pp). 5, TC, Lukin 1 (AuCoin, Geekie), 6:11. 6, Spo, Ke.Yamamoto 1 (Ka.Yamamoto, Smith), 8:23. 7, TC, Lukin 2 (AuCoin), 12:14. 8, Spo, Anderson-Dolan 1 (Ke.Yamamoto, Ka.Yamamoto), 17:38 (pp). 9, TC, Rasmussen 4 (Yorke, Sandhu), 19:00. Penalties — Rayman, TC (high-sticking), 4:31; Yorke, TC (slashing), 7:01; Sawchuk, TC (hooking), 14:04; Krebs, TC (delay of game), 17:31; Ke.Yamamoto, Spo (roughing), 17:58; Miske, Spo (roughing), 17:58; Rutledge, TC (double minor, roughing), 17:58.
Third — 10, TC, Geekie 1 (Lukin, AuCoin), 10:07. 11, Lukin 3 (Geekie, Välimäki), 17:20. Penalties — Fiala, Spo (interference), 3:08; McIndoe, Spo (roughing), 19:34; Sawchuk, TC (roughing), 19:34.
Shots — Spo 7-11-9 — 27. TC 12-13-7 — 32. Power plays — Spo, 3-6; TC 2-6. Goalies — Spo, Sittler 0-1-0-0 (28 shots-21 saves), Berlin (10:07 of 2nd, 4-3). TC, Warm 1-0-0-0 (27-24). Referees — Jeff Ingram and Duncan Brow. A. 4,352.