When Phil Tot came over from Lethbridge in an offseason trade, the Tri-City Americans expected big things from the veteran forward.
Friday night he delivered, scoring two goals to lead the Americans to a 6-3 road victory over the Regina Pats (5-6-1-0, 11 points) at the Brandt Centre.
Tri-City (8-3-1-1, 18 points), which has points in nine consecutive games, increased its lead in the U.S. Division to three points over Portland.
“I couldn’t be doing much better,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said in a phone interview. “We couldn’t shake them, but we played pretty well. The nice part is they have found their way as a team. They have come together and worked for each other and have been rewarded.”
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In the fifth game of a six-game road swing through the East Division, the Americans improved to 4-0-1-0, and will finish their trip tonight at Swift Current before returning home.
“As much as we love the Toyota Center, I’m not sure we want to come home,” quipped Hiller, whose team is 6-1-1-0 on the road.
With the score tied at 3 late in the second period, Tot scored the eventual game winner at 18:13 off an assist by Michal Plutnar. It was his first goal with the Americans.
With 1:05 left to play in regulation, the Pats pulled goaltender Matt Hewitt for an extra attacker, but Tri-City’s Zach Yuen knocked the puck loose to center ice, where Justin Feser gathered it up and put it in the empty net for a 5-3 lead at 19:10.
Still looking to get back in the game, Regina pulled Hewitt once again. This time, Tot found the empty net at 19:34.
“Phil has been putting a lot of pressure on himself,” Hiller said. “He has played well and we have noticed the effort and the intensity. I think we broke the seal for him out here (Eastern swing).”
Tri-City’s Marcus Messier scored the first of his two goals at 4:21 of the first period, and finished the period with his second at 19:52 for a 2-1 lead.
“Marcus had a lot of family here. It was a special night for him,” Hiller said. “He had the nicest body check, knocking a big defenseman on his back side. It was a solid night for him.”
Regina’s Trent Ouellette pulled the Pats even with the Americans at 10:21 of the second, but Malte Strömwall, in his first game back after missing five games with a lower-body injury, scored at 10:53 on the bump-up shift to put Tri-City back on top.
The Pats’ Jack Rodewald tied the score at 3 at 14:37, only to see Tot give the Americans the lead at the end of the period.
Eric Comrie finished with 21 saves for Tri-City in picking up his eighth win of the season.
“(Comrie) made some big saves early, and in the second and third he was able to be there when he needed to be,” Hiller said. “Just be in a zone and not as much active work.”