The Tri-City Americans are playing a numbers game, and right now they are coming up short.
Prince George took advantage of the Americans’ short bench and inexperienced lineup to hand Tri-City a 5-2 loss Saturday before a crowd of 3,704 at Toyota Center.
It’s the third consecutive loss for Tri-City, and the second time this season the Americans have lost three in a row.
“I can’t fault their effort,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said of his team. “They competed hard. The young guys who have gotten an opportunity have played well. As a group we just need to be a bit more willing to get in front of the net and pay the price.”
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With Spokane losing to Everett, the Americans (22-15-5-0, 49 points) remain in third place in the U.S. Division, two points ahead of Spokane, but five points back of No. 2 Everett.
The Americans, who were missing five key forwards and two defensemen, dressed just 18 players against the Cougars. Of the 18, six were rookies and two were affiliate players.
“It’s not an excuse, but it’s hard,” said Tri-City veteran forward Parker AuCoin. “We still have to find ways to win, and we didn’t do that this weekend. The clock is ticking.”
The loss of Michael Rasmussen (wrist), Morgan Geekie (upper body) and Nolan Yaremko (flu) has affected the Americans beyond goals and assists.
“We don’t have a lot of experience in the circle,” Williamson said. “We are losing face-offs. It’s growing pains, but it changes the game.”
Grant, who also beat Tri-City last weekend, kept the Americans off the board until 9:54 of the second period Friday, when Jake Bean scored off a rebound of a Jordan Topping shot to cut the Cougars’ lead to 2-1.
“It’s nice to get that first one out of the way and help the team out,” Bean said of his first point with the Americans. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish it off tonight. As a team, we need to really work together to get through this little stretch.”
Prince George led 4-1 when AuCoin beat Grant 5-hole for a 4-2 game.
The Americans pulled goaltender Patrick Dea with 2:39 remaining in regulation, but the only goal to come out of that was an empty netter by PG’s Jared Bethune, who also had two assists.
Tri-City had a few quality scoring chances during the game, starting in the first period when Riley Sawchuk missed an open net on a short-handed give-and-go with Mitchell Brown at 17 minutes.
In the second, Sawchuck got behind the defense and went in alone on Grant, but he put the puck off the goalie’s pads.
Later in the second, Jordan Topping had a breakaway with 1:40 left, but lost his angle and rang the puck off the post.
“We had some really good chances and we missed,” Williamson said. “Then they would come down and score. It was a momentum shift.”
Tavin Grant finished with 26 saves for PG, while Patrick Dea had 23 in a losing effort.
INJURY REPORT: Williamson said Yaremko could be back for Monday’s game at Everett, but that defenseman Roman Kalinichenko will be out for a couple of weeks with a broken bone in his hand. Kalinichenko went down to block a puck Wednesday at Everett and it hit his hand, which now sports a cast. Rasmussen and defenseman Juuso Välimäki are 2-3 weeks out, Kyle Olson is week-to-week, and the timetable for Geekie’s return is unknown.
Cougars 5, Americans 2
First — 1, PG, Lakusta 5 (Bethune, Leppard), 2:22 (pp). Penalties — Brown, TC (hooking), :23; King-Cunningham, TC (delay of game), 15:29.
Second — 2, PG, Colina 4 (Maser, Bethune), 7:30. 3, TC, Bean 6 (Topping, Coghlan), 9:54 (pp). 4, PG, Leppard 10 (Colina, Mikhalchuk), 13:40. 5, PG, Mikhalchuk 10 (Curtis, Boyd), 19:35. Penalties — Schoettler, PG (holding), :26; Crossley, PG (hooking), 8:45; MacPhee, PG (tripping), 10:42; Sander, PG (roughing), 12:06; AuCoin, TC (roughing), 12:06; AuCoin, TC (slashing), 16:27.
Third — 6, TC, AuCoin 12 (Bishop, Mutala), 9:23. 7, PG, Bethune 15 (Maser), 19:03 (en). Penalties — Lakusta, PG (delay of game), 13:33.
Shots — PG 10-13-5 — 28. TC 5-16-7 — 28. Power plays — PG 1-3. TC 1-4. Goalies — PG, Grant 11-11-3-1 (28 shots-26 saves). TC, Dea 10-9-4-0 (27-23). Referees — Mike Campbell and Fraser Lawrence. A — 3,704.