KENNEWICK --The Spokane Chiefs knew if they wanted to win the U.S. Division title that they would have to win 11 games in a row.
They only got to nine.
Brendan Shinnimin had two goals and a four-point night, and Kruise Reddick added two goals and an assist to help the Tri-City Americans to a 6-4 victory Saturday night over the Chiefs before a rowdy crowd of 5,945 at Toyota Center.
"We go back to last weekend and we had a couple of games that were OK, and Wednesday was terrible," said Americans coach Jim Hiller. "We proved a lot to ourselves Friday and tonight -- we are in this and we mean business. There were lots of goals tonight and the crowd was outstanding. It was an exciting game. Spokane is an exceptional team and they played their hearts out."
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The Americans (43-24-2-2, 90 points), will finish the regular season today at Seattle. No matter the outcome, Tri-City will be the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference for the upcoming playoffs.
"This was huge," said Shinnimin, who has 203 career points. "This was one of the games we wanted to win most. We have played great the last couple of games, which is most important. The last six or seven games before this, we were down and it wasn't fun to play. Today, the guys were happy -- we had a blast."
Spokane (47-17-4-2, 100 points), which needed to beat the Americans and Portland today to win the division title, will finish third in the Western Conference behind division leaders Portland and Kelowna.
"Five-on-five, they played us nose-to-nose," Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. "The difference was the calls. We spent too much time in the penalty box and you can't win like that. It came down to the puck that went over the net (in the last minute of the game). That goes in, and it could have been a different outcome."
Tri-City, which had lost its last five games to Spokane, held a 5-3 lead after two periods, and were able to fend off the Chiefs until late in the period when they pulled goaltender Mac Engel for an extra attacker and Tyler Johnson netted his 52nd goal of the season at 17:42 to pull within 5-4.
Spokane pulled Engel again the last minute of the game, and had a couple of chances, but Shinnimin was able to knock the puck free and escorted it down the ice for an empty-net goal with 6 seconds left in the game.
"We wanted to go into the third like a playoff game -- keep it simple and get it deep in their zone," Shinnimin said. "They scored, but we made some huge blocks late. There was no quit to the end."
The Chiefs trailed 3-2 to open the second period, but were able to tie the score at 3 at 14:37 as Anthony Bardaro found an open net behind Drew Owsley on the power play, to give Spokane its third power-play goal of the game. Owsley finished with 30 saves.
The Americans beat the Chiefs at their own game late in the second, scoring two goals on the man advantage over the last 57 seconds of the period.
Shinnimin redirected a shot from the point by Reddick a 19:03, and Carter Ashton, with a blind backhanded pass from Shinnimin from behind the net, beat Mac Engel at 19:31 for a 5-3 Tri-City lead.
There was no shortage of excitement in the first period.
Spokane took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play at 6:19 as Dominik Uher beat Owsley from the top of the crease.
The Americans evened things up at 10:07 as Ashton brought the puck up ice and slid it to Shinnimin in the slot. Shinnimin then backhanded the puck to defenseman Tyler Schmidt, who found daylight past James Reid's right shoulder.
Reddick scored a pair of goals in a span of five minutes to give the Americans a 3-1 lead.
The first came at 10:50 when Matt MacKenzie blocked a Spokane shot, then sent the puck up ice between Spokane defenders Davis Vandane and Corbin Baldwin to Reddick, who had floated behind the defense, and went in alone on Reid and put the puck over the goaltender's right pad.
Five minutes later, Reddick won a face-off, the puck went to Zach Yuen, who gave the puck right back to Reddick. The Americans captain took the puck up the ice, down the slot and blasted it past Reid.
The goal ended Reid's night, finishing with five saves on eight shots.
The Chiefs pulled within 3-2 with 58 seconds left in the period as Blake Gal shoved the puck in the net on a scramble at the left side of the net.
2010-11 Awards: The Americans handed out their annual awards after the game, with Brendan Shinnimin and Drew Owsley sharing Player of the Year honors.
Other honors were:
Scholastic Player of the Year: Chris Driedger (3.9 GPA)
Todd Klassen Humanitarian of the Year: Adam Hughesman
Most Sportsmanlike Player: Kruise Reddick
Rookie of the Year: Connor Rankin
Defenseman of the Year: Tyler Schmidt
Top Scorer: Brendan Shinnimin (96 points)
Three Stars Award: Brendan Shinnimin
Volunteer of the Year: Bob Nelson, Tri-City Hockey Booster Club
Corporate Sponsor of the Year: Wildhorse Resort and Casino.