After going 0-for-5 against the U.S. Division, the Swift Current Broncos are more than ready to head back over the border.
Rookie goalie Evan Sarthou made 31 saves in his first home start, Phil Tot had two goals and the Tri-City Americans beat the Broncos 4-1 on Tuesday night before a crowd of 3,005 at the Toyota Center.
“I think (this win) was really important for us,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team has won three in a row over the Broncos. “There are defining moments in a season. We didn’t feel very good after Saturday (8-1 loss to Portland). What are you going to do? How are you going to respond? We had good energy tonight, a lot of blocked shots. We did what we could.”
The Broncos (6-8-0-1), making their biennial trip to Kennewick, faltered from the start, going 0-for-3 on the power play in the first period and 0-for-4 for the game.
“It’s very disappointing. It will be a long bus ride home,” said Broncos coach Mark Lamb. “(The U.S. Division) hasn’t been very sweet to us any year. There are a lot of good teams, but we think we are a pretty good team, too. The same things that beat us in the other games were beating us tonight. Getting scored on on the first shift, turning the puck over.”
It didn’t take long for the Americans (6-8-0-1) to find the net as Broncos goalie Eetu Laurikainen lost track of the puck and Tot swooped in and put it between his pads just 34 seconds into the game for his fourth goal of the season.
“Beau (McCue) was behind the net with the puck,” Tot said. “I’m not sure how it ended up in his pads from behind the net, but I saw it sitting between his legs. The ref hadn’t blown the whistle so I poked it in. It was a huge win. We needed that confidence. Our leaders led and our rookies were really good. It was a good team effort.”
Tot’s goal was the only one of the period that saw the Americans kill off three Swift Current power plays.
“Our penalty kill was pretty good tonight but our power play didn’t score any goals for us,” Lamb said. “I thought we had lot of chances, but they did a good job killing. Give them credit.”
The Broncos evened the score at 1:14 of the second after a long video review apparently showed the puck crossing the goal line.
Sarthou stopped the first shot with a pad save, but a scrum in front of the net resulted in a goal for Connor Sanvido.
“To be honest, I don’t really know,” said Sarthou, when asked if the puck crossed the line. “I’m going to take a look at it later to see if it crossed the line. They found that it did. It happens.”
Rookie Braden Purtill put the Americans back out front 2-1, taking a cross-ice pass from Mitch Topping and backhanding the puck past Laurikainen’s right shoulder at 8:01.
Brian Williams scored at 1:29 of the third, and Tot added an empty netter at 18:52 to give Sarthou his first WHL win.
“The guys were great defensively, blocking a lot of shots and letting me see the puck,” Sarthou said. “It made it a lot easier for me. It’s exciting for sure, but tomorrow is another day.”
The Americans limited the Broncos to six shots on goal in the third as the defense clamped down.
“I thought our D corps was strong tonight, especially in the third period,” Hiller said. “Strong in the corners and a pretty good job at the net. It was pretty solid. That’s how we have to play to have success.”
Notes: The Montreal Canadiens called up former Tri-City forward Patrick Holland from their AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. Holland, played his first NHL game, replaced Danny Briere, who’s out indefinitely with a concussion. Holland played 6:26 in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. He did not have any points. ... The Kootenay Ice acquired F Tim Bozon and D London Cross from the Kamloops Blazers in exchange for F Collin Shirley and D Matt Thomas and a two future draft picks.