Tri-City Americans goalie Eric Comrie will appear in the nightmares of many opposing players this season, and Friday night, Kamloops’ Tim Bozon will be the one losing sleep.
With 1:34 remaining in regulation, Comrie made a highlight reel sprawling glove save on a shot by Bozon from the left circle that would have trimmed the deficit to 3-2, but instead Comrie helped the Americans to a 4-1 victory over the Blazers before a crowd of 3,712 at Toyota Center.
“He’s an excellent player,” Comrie said of Bozon. “I was lucky our defense kept it to the outside more than he probably would have liked. I just got a little lucky there and made the save.”
Comrie finished with 26 saves and the Americans (4-5-0-1, 9 points) got goals by four different players for their second consecutive win.
“We feel good about this one, but we want to go in and get tomorrow night (at Seattle),” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “That would make it a great week. We aren’t too celebratory just yet.”
It was the third consecutive loss by the Blazers (2-6-0-0, 4 points), who have been outscored 10-3 in that span.
The Blazers trailed 3-1 late in the game, and pulled goalie Bolton Pouliot for an extra attacker with less than 2 minutes to play. Kamloops had sustained pressure, but got nothing past Comrie, whose final glove save was the telling tale.
“That was a big save,” Hiller said. “A great one-timer by Bozon. He got all of it, but Eric was there and the glove was there.”
Justin Gutierrez added an empty-net goal for the Americans with 1:07 remaining to seal the win.
The Americans, who beat Kamloops 3-2 on Tuesday, took a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period.
Rookie Braden Purtill scored his first WHL goal at 4:47 of the first period, taking a feed from Rodney Southam, cutting across the slot and backhanding the puck past Pouliot.
It was just one of several key plays by rookies on the night.
“I thought (defenseman) Brandon Carlo had his best game of the year tonight,” Hiller said. “For me, that was key the way he played. We’ve been waiting to see that.”
Americans captain Mitch Topping extended the lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal at 16:11.
Taking a pass from Connor Rankin in the high slot, Topping skated toward the net and beat Pouliot glove side for his first goal of the season.
Just 30 seconds later at the other end of the ice, the Tri-City defense and Comrie stopped a flurry of three quick chances by the Blazers to keep the zero on the visitor’s side of the scoreboard.
“Eric had to make some big saves,” Hiller said. “We were a little sloppy with the puck. Teams are going to get chances, but when you are sloppy and give them chances, that’s not very good and we had some of that.”
Midway through the second, the Americans went out front 3-0, getting a little help from former teammate Sam Grist.
The Kamloops’ defenseman shot a puck off Brian Williams’ shin pads and it ricocheted into the neutral zone, where Rankin picked it up and headed up ice.
Rankin slid the puck to Lucas Nickles, who in turn gave it back to Rankin on the doorstep where he beat Pouliot for his fourth goal of the season.
“That one looked like it hurt,” Rankin said of Williams’ block. “He said it hurt less when we scored. Give that all to Brian, it was a great read. Great play there to help us get a goal, even though he wasn’t the star of it, he was behind the scenes.”
Kamloops’ Chase Souto ended Comrie’s shutout bid at 7:30 of the third, but in the end, the win was more important.
“We got of to a tough start to season and losing games by one goal is never fun,” Rankin said. A win like helps our confidence. Any time you win two in a row, your confidence grows.”
Note: With his assist on Marcus Messier’s game-winning goal Tuesday, Rankin recorded his 150th WHL point with 72 goals and 78 assists.
Kamloops 0 0 1 — 1
Tri-City 2 1 1 — 4
First — 1, TC, Purtill 1 (Southam, Tot), 4:47. 2, TC, Topping 1 (Rankin, Nickles), 16:11 (pp). Penalties — Rehill, Kam (closing hand on puck), 15:36; Thomson, Kam (holding), 19:51.
Second — 3, TC, Rankin 4 (Nickles, Williams), 13:12. Penalties — Rehill, Kam (slashing), :29; Cross, Kam, major (fighting), 13:36; Gelinas, TC, major (fighting), 13:36; Rankin, TC (high-sticking0, 13:12.
Third — 4, Kam, Souto 3 (Ully, Connolly), 7:30. 5, TC, Gutierrez 1, 18:53 (en). Penalties — Grist, Kam (interference), 1:34; Sterzer, Kam (elbowing), 9:06; Needham, Kam (tripping), 14:58.
Shots — Kam 11-7-9 — 27. TC 12-13-15 — 40. Power plays — Kam 0-1. TC 1-6. Goalies — Kam, Pouliot 1-3-0-0 (39 shots-36 saves). TC, Comrie 4-4-0-1 (27-26). Referees — Ian Croft and Jason Nissen. A — 3,712.