Justin Feser is not a numbers guy. The Tri-City Americans captain knew he needed a certain amount of points to reach 300 career points, he just didn’t know what that number was.
It was four. With a natural hat trick and an assist, Feser hit the 300-point mark and helped lead the Americans to a 5-3 victory Sunday over the Seattle Thunderbirds before a crowd of 3,664 at Toyota Center.
“I didn’t focus on that,” said Feser, who is the seventh Americans player to score 300 or more points. “Getting the two points tonight was more important than my personal stats. After losing in Kelowna (last Friday), we knew we had to come back to our building and use that to our advantage in front of our great fans.”
Tri-City (24-16-1-2, 51 points) moved within six points of fourth-place Spokane in the Western Conference standings. The Americans will play at Everett on Tuesday and at Vancouver on Wednesday.
“The guys played well and we had some adversity,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, who lost forward Beau McCue in the first period and forward Connor Rankin in the third. “It was physical, but we were physical as well. Ryan Chynoweth led us in hits and Brian (Williams) gave up almost a foot in that fight (standing up to the 6-foot-6, 223-pound Mitch Elliot, who hit Rankin).”
Seattle (16-25-2-1, 35 points), which has lost 14 consecutive games, is in eighth place in the Western Conference, just three points in front of Prince George.
Feser, who scored the last goal of the second period to give the Americans a 3-2 lead, scored the first two of the third for a 5-2 lead. He has 25 goals this season.
“I’ve been so fortunate to be around him these past four years,” Hiller said Feser. “Three hundred points seems like 600 to me. He’s just so good. There are so many things he does well. Some of the things you can only pick up on video in slow motion, then you really appreciate what he does.”
Seattle had a goal disallowed at 3:59 of the third for interfering with the goalie. The goal would have tied the score at 3-3.
Instead, Feser scored his second at 11:48 of the third, then finished off his hat trick at 18:22 on the power play, taking a pass from childhood friend Mitch Topping and beating Seattle goalie Brandon Glover.
Seattle opened the scoring as Branden Troock’s shot from the top of the left face-off circle went far side and into the net at 5:51 of the first.
The Americans replied at 10:58 as Zach Yuen took a pass off the back wall from Feser and zipped the puck past Glover to tie the score at 1-1.
One minute later, rookie Justin Gutierrez, who helped the Americans retain possession of the puck behind the Seattle net, backhanded the puck past Glover for his first career goal and a 2-1 Tri-City lead.
“It’s better than I imagined,” Gutierrez said. “I’m not going to sleep tonight. It was nice to see Feser get his 300th point. It’s something to aspire to.”
Feser was just as happy for his young teammate.
“It’s awesome for Gutz,” Feser said. “We’ve been waiting for that moment for quite a while. I think I was just as happy for his first goal as I was my 300th point.”
The Thunderbirds found themselves trailing 2-1 after the first period, but wasted no time in evening the score as Andrew Johnson got his own rebound and beat Americans goalie Luke Lee-Knight at 2:30 for his first goal with Seattle. Johnson came over in a trade last week from Moose Jaw.
Sunday was the first home start for Lee-Knight, who finished with 26 saves in picking up his third win.
“The games are worth two points, you just have to go out and get the right result,” Lee-Knight said. “The guys have been behind me all season.”
Note: Feser played his 292nd consecutive regular-season game — a franchise record — which ranks him second all-time in the WHL behind Dwayne Newman (Victoria and Brandon), who holds the record at 311.