Good teams find a way to win.
Saturday night The Tri-City Americans used a 22-save performance by Eric Comrie, solid defense and a goal and two assists by Justin Feser to beat the top-ranked Kamloops Blazers 4-2 before a crowd of 4,450 at Toyota Center.
"The first thing I look at is the 24 shots on goal," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "That is a dynamic offensive team. That is hard work. They are good and we know what it feels like when you are that good. People enjoy beating you."
The Americans (13-7-1-1, 28 points) have won three of their last four games and are tied for second with Spokane in the U.S. Division, three points behind Portland, which beat the Chiefs 9-1 on Saturday.
"Last night (3-0 loss to Everett) was disappointing," Feser said. "Tonight was a statement game. Some players showed what they are about and what they can bring. Marcus (Messier), (Lucas) Nickles and Beau (McCue) played their top line hard and didn't give up much in the offensive zone. That's where it all started."
The Blazers (17-4-0-1, 35 points), who got off to a hot start this season, winning 16 of their first 17 games, has hit the skids as of late, picking up their third consecutive loss.
Despite the string of losses, they still own the best record in the WHL.
"Tonight we had the effort, but the bounces didn't go our way," said Kamloops overage forward Brendan Ranford. "They came out hard the first 10 minutes like they always do. That's when they try to win the game. They did a good job tonight."
The Americans not only limited the Blazers to 24 shots on goal, but they killed off all three Kamloops power plays, allowing a total of three shots on goal.
"I thought our defense in general played a strong game," said Tri-City veteran defenseman Drydn Dow. "The best we have played all year."
Kamloops found itself trailing 3-1 at the end of the second period, but quickly got back in the thick of things as Ranford intercepted a pass out of the corner by Tri-City's Brian Williams and beat Comrie just 1:13 into the third period.
The Blazers pulled goalie Cole Cheveldave with 1:16 left in regulation, only to see Connor Rankin send the puck down ice, where it found the empty net with 40 seconds remaining to seal the win.
"That's the best hockey team in the WHL we beat tonight," Comrie said. "When teams pull their goalie, we are really good. I'm confident in our team when they do that."
After a disappointing effort Friday, the Americans turned their fortunes around in the first period, opening the scoring with a goal by defenseman Mitch Topping.
Topping took a pass from Feser, skated to the midpoint and blasted the puck toward the net. The puck ricocheted off Kamloops defenseman Landon Cross and into the net past goalie Cole Cheveldave at 6:07.
Tri-City took advantage of its first power play 2 1/2 minutes later as Zach Yuen took a cross-ice pass from Feser, wheeled around Cross in the left circle, cut into the slot and beat Cheveldave for his second goal of the season and a 2-0 Tri-City lead.
The Blazers, who had a nice tic-tac-toe play by Jordan DePape, Ranford and Matthew Needham interrupted by Comrie at 16:26, made good on the next one with 37 seconds left in the period as Colin Smith shoved the puck between Comrie's pads.
Holding a slim lead heading into the second, the Americans effectively killed off two Kamloops power plays before going on the man advantage at 17:51.
Tri-City needed just 8 seconds to take a 3-1 lead as Feser beat Cheveldave in the slot for his 14th goal of the season.
With three points on the night, Feser moved past Bill Lindsay (271) into 10th on the all-time scoring list with 273 points.
Kamloops played without overage forward Dylan Willick, who broke his ankle against Prince George last Friday. ... Former Tri-City goalie Ty Rimmer, now with Lethbridge, finally got the night off Saturday. After starting the Hurricanes' first 21 games, Rimmer watched as backup Christopher Tai lost a 4-0 game to Regina. Rimmer has played a league-leading 1,274 minutes this season. He has a 2.73 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.