Tri-City coach Mike Williamson wanted a quick start to Saturday’s annual Teddy Bear Toss game. His players complied.
Tyler Sandhu scored twice — including 36 seconds into the game — and Morgan Geekie added two goals as the Americans beat the Victoria Royals 4-3 before a holiday crowd of 5,096 at Toyota Center.
“I liked our start,” Williamson said. “On Teddy Bear night to get that first goal out of the way early and get our fans into it was key.”
In a spirited first period, Sandhu put on his Santa hat, jumped over the boards and beat Victoria goalie Griffen Outhouse to bring down a flurry of 3,002 stuffed animals that soon will have a home with area children.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling,” Sandhu said. “I’ve never done anything like that before. It’s such a great cause. It makes me happy.”
Sandhu’s goal set a record on Teddy Bear Toss night, beating Jordan Cameron’s 2001 mark of 37 seconds during the team’s first ever event.
“That’s neat. It’s a pretty cool thing on top of that (goal),” Sandhu said of the record.
Tri-City (19-11-3-0, 41 points) loaded up the bus and headed to Prince George, British Columbia, after the game.
With U.S. Division-leading Everett losing Saturday to Portland, the Americans pulled within six points of the Silvertips as they hit the road.
“We are chasing them and there are teams chasing us,” Sandhu said. “We are trying to win every game we can.”
Six minutes after Sandhu scored, and 1:20 after a melee to the left of Americans goalie Rylan Parenteau, Morgan Geekie took a pass from Michael Rasmussen in the slot and beat Outhouse in the upper left corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
The Royals would get one goal back at 16:50 as Matthew Phillips scored on a penalty shot.
Victoria (16-14-3-0, 35 points) tied the score at 2 at 2:57 of the second with a goal by Regan Nagy, but Geekie put the Americans back out front at 8:05, notching his 16th of the season on the power play.
“We were careless and gave them a penalty shot.” Williamson said. “These are things we have to learn as a team. We skated well and moved the puck well. There were a lot of positives.”
Sandhu, who also had two assists on the night, scored his second at 2:24 of the third on the power play. Tri-City finished the night 3-for-5 on the man advantage, which ranks first in the WHL at 30.3 percent.
“Special teams are a key thing for us,” Sandhu said. “Our penalty kill (ranked fourth at 83.7 percent) has been doing well, too. We need to be better 5-on-5.”
The Americans clung to their 4-2 lead down to the waning seconds of the game. With Outhouse on the bench for an extra attacker, Jack Walker scored with 20.4 seconds left to pull the Royals within a goal.
Vladislav Lukin and Juuso Välimäki each had two assists for the Americans, while Parenteau had 29 saves in picking up his 11th win of the season.
The Americans will play Tuesday and Wednesday at Prince George, then will finish the first half of the season with games at Everett and Seattle next Friday and Saturday.
“It was important to finish our last home game on a good note and give our fans something to be happy about,” Williamson said. “This trip (15 hours on the bus) seems a lot shorter when you leave with a win.”
Notes: The Royals played without one of their top scorers, Tyler Soy (12 goals, 13 assists), who suffered an upper body injury Nov. 19 against Regina and has missed 10 games. Victoria also was without defenseman Ryan Gagnon, who served the third of a four-game league suspension.
Americans 4, Royals 3
First — 1, TC, Sandhu 7 (Lukin, Coghlan), :36. 2, TC, Geekie 15 (Rasmussen, Sandhu), 6:34 (pp). 3, Vic, Phillips 23, 16:50 (ps). Penalties — Barger, Vic, double minor (roughing), 5:14; Gerth, Vic (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:14; Wotherspoon, TC (roughing), 5:14; Reddekopp, Vic (misconduct), 5:14; Oliver, Vic, major (fighting), 5:14; Olson, TC, major (fighting), 5:14; Yorke, TC (tripping), 8:50; Sandhu, TC (slashing), 17:53.
Second — 4, Vic, Nagy 10 (Ibragimov, Walker), 2:57. 5, TC, Geekie 16 (Sandhu, Välimäki), 8:05 (pp). Penalties — Prowse, Vic (high-sticking), 7:18; Välimäki, TC (interference), 17:33.
Third — 6, TC, Sandhu 8 (Lukin, Välimäki), 2:24 (pp). 7, Vic, Walker 14 (Reddekopp), 19:39. Penalties — Folk, Vic (tripping), :32; Folk, Vic (slashing), 11:48.
Shots — Vic 13-11-8 —32. TC 13-11-10 — 34. Power plays — Vic 0-4. TC 3-5 Goalies — Vic, Outhouse 16-11-2-0 (34 shots-30 saves). TC, Parenteau 11-6-1-0 (32-29). Referees — Brett Iverson and Shane Warschaw. A — 5,096.
Tri-City Americans who scored the teddy bear goal (all in the first period except where specified):
2016 | Tyler Sandhu (:36), 4-3 win over Victoria
2015 | Juuso Välimäki (2:07), 3-2 loss to Everett
2014 | Richard Nejezchleb (7:31), 4-0 win over Seattle
2013 | Connor Rankin (1:31, 2nd), 5-1 loss to Prince George
2012 | Parker Bowles (12:29), 8-4 loss to Seattle
2011 | Jordan Messier (11:58), 4-3 (SO) win over Everett
2010 | Brendan Shinnimin (1:10), 4-1 win over Seattle
2009 | Brooks Macek (11:57), 5-2 win over Portland
2008 | Mitch Fadden (:58), 4-1 win over Calgary
2007 | Shaun Vey (13:10), 5-2 win over Seattle
2006 | Colton Yellow Horn (11:57), 4-3 win over Spokane
2005 | Logan Stephenson (11:43), 4-0 win over Everett
2004 | Clayton Stoner (10:34, 2nd), 2-2 tie with Kelowna
2003 | Clayton Stoner (1:48), 4-2 win over Everett
2002 | Jake Riddle (4:08, 2nd), 4-3 win over Portland
2001 | Jordan Cameron (:37), 7-4 win over Vancouver