Saturday was a special night at Toyota Center as the Tri-City Americans celebrated their 25th anniversary.
In the midst of the festivities, the Americans scored three special-teams goals in the first period, got 42 saves from Eric Comrie, and held on for a 3-2 victory over the Kelowna Rockets before a crowd of 4,563.
"It wasn't a pretty weekend for us," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team rallied for a 3-2 win over the Rockets on Friday. "You have to be able to win the ugly games, too. That's a pretty good hockey team we played this weekend."
The Americans (15-7-1-1, 32 points), who are in the midst of a three-game win streak, used a pair of highlight reel short-handed goals by Justin Feser in the first to take control of the game early.
"Any goal counts and any goal is fun to score," said Feser, who surpassed Dylan Gyori for seventh on the team's all-time goals scored list with 128. "Short-handed one are hard to come by."
It was the second win in as many nights over the Rockets (12-8-1-1, 26 points), who lost their second in a row after rolling into Toyota Center on a five-game win streak.
"They scored two short-handed goals and that was the difference in the game," Kelowna coach Ryan Huska said. "We were controlling the game until we got on that power play."
Holding on two a 3-2 lead after two period, the Americans killed off a penalty to open the third, and with the Rockets pressing midway through the period, Comrie stonewalled Myles Bell at 11:08, then robbed Colton Sissons with his glove 23 seconds later in impressive fashion.
The Rockets pulled goalie Jordon Cooke with 1:13 remaining for an extra attacker, but still couldn't get anything past Comrie.
"I thought we did a good job with our chances, but their goalie was good," Huska said. "We had a chance to win twice here. He was the difference both nights."
Tri-City's Marcus Messier started the scoring in the first on the power play, taking a nifty pass from Connor Rankin across the crease and tipping the puck in the net at the right post at the 8-minute mark.
At 12:12, Tri-City defenseman Mitch Topping went to the penalty box for cross-checking, and the Americans' sixth-ranked penalty kill went to work.
Mid-way through the Rockets' man advantage, the Americans knocked the puck free and Feser and Drydn Dow headed up ice 2-on-1 with Kelowna's Zach Franko. Feser slid the puck over to Dow, whose shot was blocked by goalie Jordon Cooke. Feser was there for the rebound and an easy goal at 13 minutes.
On the same penalty kill, Feser and Dow again worked their magic. This time, Feser got Kelowna defenseman Mitchell Wheaton turned around, went to the net and scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season at 14:01 to give the Americans a 3-0 lead.
The Americans scored their three goals on five shots.
"We got a couple of good bounces with the puck and we were lucky to score," Feser said. "Can't ask for much more from our PK. On the second one, Dow made the play, got me the puck, then made room for me to score."
The Rockets came back on a mission in the second. Rourke Chartier scored on the power play at 13:50, and Ryan Olsen followed up 41 seconds later as his shot ricocheted off Tri-City defenseman Justin Hamonic's skate and past Comrie to cut the Americans' lead to 3-2.
Despite the miscue, Comrie praised his defense.
"The defense was absolutely outstanding for me," Comrie said. "They were strong and tenacious out front and they were blocking shots. (Tyson) Dallman had some great blocks."