In a game that had a little bit of everything, it should have come as no surprise when Tri-City coach Jim Hiller selected tough guy Jessey Astles to take the first shot in the shootout.
Astles was the only player to put the puck in the net, giving the Americans a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds before a Friday night crowd of 3,695 at Toyota Center.
“At first I wasn’t expecting it, to be honest,” Astles said of taking the first shot. “I’ve talked to Jim about it. I do have a quick release and a good shot and I use that as much as I can.”
As a buzz went through the crowd, Astles took off with the puckfrom center ice.
“It’s the same move I usually do on (Eric) Comrie and (Evan) Sarthou. I just practice on those guys. I get a good angle, when it’s the right time I shoot it low, a couple of inches off the ice blocker side. It’s hard to stop.”
Comrie turned away all three Seattle shooters and finished the night with 31 saves.
“Tonight had a little bit of everything,” Hiller said. “Forty young guys going at it with everything they’ve got. Great skill on both sides, great goaltending on both sides. It was an entertaining game. A fun night to be part of.”
The teams were tied at 2-2 after the first period, and when nothing changed after regulation, the game went to overtime.
Seattle had 32 seconds remaining on a left over power play, but the Americans’ defense was in overdrive, blocking shots and intercepting passes.
“It was a fun game and a good game,” said Astles, whose series of checks in the first period drew the appreciation of the fans. “Not just for me, but my linemates, (Marcus) Messier and (Devon) McAndrews, who played in his first WHL game.”
The first period started fast and furious.
Tri-City’s Lucas Nickles was awarded a penalty shot at 1:20 after getting slashed by Seattle’s Justin Hickman. Nickles converted the freebie for a 1-0 lead.
Thunderbirds rookie Ryan Gropp, playing his first WHL game, scored his first goal on his first shift.
Comrie had made two saves before the puck got away from him, giving Gropp an open net on the right side for an easy goal at 2:05 to tie the score.
Seattle extended its lead to 2-1 as Erik Benoit got behind the defense and put a shot on goal, which Comrie stopped, but the rebound got away from him.
Benoit slid the puck out front to Seth Swenson, who was all alone in the slot for an easy goal at 3:40.
I would take until the waning seconds of the period — and a little help from the Thunderbirds — for the Americans to pull even.
Seattle’s Hickman went off for cross-checking, and Jerret Smith followed, giving Tri-City a 5-on-3 power play for 1:12.
Taking a pass from Mitch Topping, Connor Rankin shot the puck from the left circle. The puck ricocheted off Danny Mumaugh’s left pad and out in the slot.
Beau McCue got his stick on the puck, but before he could make anything happen, Seattle’s Adam Henry came skating in. Henry’s skate hit the puck and put it in the net at 19:49 for a 2-2 game.
The Americans had four power plays in the second period, but came away empty. Benoit had a short-handed breakaway for the Thunderbirds but Comrie was there for the stop.
Seattle had three power plays of its own, and just like Tri-City, could not convert. Brian Williams had a short-handed breakaway for the Americans, but put the puck in Mumaugh’s pads at 9:41.
Notes: Coaches for the Subway Super Series were announced Friday. Red Deer’s Brent Sutter will serve as head coach for Team WHL for the games in Red Deer (Nov. 27) and Lethbridge (Nov. 28). Sutter will be joined on the bench by Kootenay Ice coach Ryan McGill. The series, played against the Russian National Junior Team, begins its six-game schedule Nov. 18 at Gatineau, Quebec.
Seattle 2 0 0 0 — 2
Tri-City 2 0 0 0 — 3
Tri-City wins shootout 1-0
First — 1, TC, Nickles 4, 1:20 (ps). 2, Sea, Gropp 1 (Troock, Wardley), 2:05. 3, Sea, Swenson 5 (Benoit), 3:40. 4, TC, McCue 6m (Rankin, Topping), 19:49 (pp). Penalties — Hickman, Sea (cross-checking), 18:29; Smith, Sea (tripping), 19:17.
Second Penalties — Carlo, TC (holding opp. stick), 5:30; Elliot, Sea (cross-checking), 7:22; Hickman, Sea, major-minor (instigator, fighting, game misconduct), 10:44; Hamonic, TC, major (fighting), 10:44; Carlo, TC (hooking), 13:06; Smith, Sea (holding), 17:06; Nickles, TC (boarding), 17:17; Lipsbergs, Sea (goaltender interference), 18:53.
Third — No scoring. Penalties — Wotherspoon, TC (holding), 12:18; Williams, TC (high-sticking), 18:32.
Overtime — No scoring. Penalties — None.
Shots — Sea 10-10-11-2 — 33. TC 12-11-16-4 — 43. Power plays — Sea 0-5. TC 1-6. Shootout — Sea 0 (Barzal NG, Theodore NG, Gropp ). TC 1 (Astles G, Williams NG, Tot NG). Goalies — Sea, Mumaugh 4-1-0-2 (43 shots-41 saves). TC, Comrie 6-7-0-1 (33-31). Referees —Mike Campbell and Jason Nissen. A — 3,695.