KENNEWICK -- Tri-City Americans goaltender Ty Rimmer and his Spokane counterpart, Mac Engel, engaged in a little game of 'Whatever you can do, I can do better' on Saturday night.
There were dazzling glove saves, goal-saving poke checks and perfectly placed paddles at the post, but in the end, Rimmer and the Americans came out on top.
Brendan Shinnimin scored two goals, including the game-winner with 7:01 left in regulation, and Rimmer finished with 28 saves to lead the Americans to a 3-1 victory over the Chiefs before a raucous announced crowd of 4,806 at the Toyota Center.
"It was a classic goaltending battle," Rimmer said. "The first guy to crack usually ends up with the loss.
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"This is a huge rivalry and a huge two points."
Tri-City (11-5-0-0) kept its place at the top of the U.S. Division with 22 points.
"I thought that was probably the best game we have played," Americans coach Jim Hiller said. "When you play Spokane, you accept that challenge. We needed to measure ourselves against a team like that. It was entertaining. They might want to charge the fans double as they leave the building."
Spokane (8-3-0-1, 17 points), which came in riding an eight-game winning streak, is winless on the road this season over four games.
"It was a good game. We were competitive, and we pushed them hard," Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. "We shot ourselves in the foot. We killed off the (delay-of-game) penalty, then gave up the goal. You can't do that and expect to win."
With the score 1-1 heading into the third period, each team killed off an early penalty before Spokane's Connor Chartier sent the puck out of play at 10:52.
The Chiefs killed the penalty, but just seven seconds after the penalty ended, Shinnimin poked the puck in the net for a 2-1 Tri-City lead at 12:59.
"This was a big challenge for the guys," Shinnimin said. "We treated it like a playoff game. It was a high-paced game, and we executed really well. I've been struggling with my touch around the net -- getting these goals feels great. It gives me more confidence."
With 1:29 remaining in regulation, the Chiefs pulled Engel for an extra attacker, but the only goal scored came from Tri-City's Justin Feser -- an empty netter with 1 minute left on the clock.
"This was a great team to test us," said Americans forward Adam Hughesman, who had two assists. "It was a great battle between two good teams. We deserved this win."
After getting a feel for each other the first seven minutes of the game, the Americans caught a break as Shinnimin got behind Spokane's Brendan Kichton, took a pass up ice from Hughesman and beat Engel glove side from the right circle at 7:26.
Holding onto a 1-0 lead, the Americans frittered away three consecutive power plays, including a 5-on-3 man advantage, in the middle of the period, but the Chiefs were able to make good on theirs.
With Hughesman in the penalty box for the first time this season, Blake Gal picked up a rebound and found daylight at the right post to tie the score at 16:58.
With just 33 seconds left in the first, Gal put Tri-City defenseman Zach Yuen into the boards head first. Gal was booted from the game, and the Americans received a 5-minute power play.
Tri-City's power play, which has taken a nose dive to 19th in the league at 17.9 percent, was 0-for-5 through the first two periods. The Americans mustered just four shots on the extended power play.
Spokane's luck wasn't any better in the second as the Americans killed off three consecutive power plays in a span of seven minutes, and Rimmer made an outstanding stick save at the right post at 17:50.
"Over the years, you develop habits," Rimmer said. "No matter what happens at the end of the day, my job is to keep the puck out of the net."
* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574; email@example.com