The U.S. Division has proven to be the toughest in the Western Hockey League this season. All five teams are playing .500 hockey or better and every game is a battle.
Saturday night was no different.
Parker Bowles fed Brian Williams the puck from behind the net and Williams beat Everett goalie Daniel Cotton just 18 seconds into overtime to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 4-3 victory before a Saturday night crowd of 4,865 at Toyota Center.
“I don’t know how he saw me,” Williams said. “He beat like three guys down the wall there and his back was turned to me. The next thing I know the puck was on my tape, all I had to do was put it in the net. It was on a silver platter almost.”
The Americans (12-9-0-2, 26 points) moved into fourth place in the U.S. Division.
“It was an exciting game,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “Interesting, too.
Two goals that had to be reviewed. They don’t give you a lot, but we stuck with it. We’ve been up and down and sideways this year. That’s what makes you better, when you can get through those things. We seem to be rising to the challenge.”
Tied at 3-3 late in the third, the Silvertips thought they had a goal by Josh Winquist with 1:42 to play, but a review of the goal showed the puck was redirected in with a high stick.
“When you looked at it from the bench, you knew it was close,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said of the play. “I wondered myself if it wasn’t a high stick. I’m sure they made the right decision.”
With just 11.6 seconds left in regulation, Everett’s Ben Betker shot the puck out of play, giving the Americans a power play that eventually led to the game-winning goal.
“One of the most important plays of the game was Gutz (Justin Gutierrez) pressuring their defenseman and he put it over the glass and we got the power play,” Hiller said. “It seems like such a minimal play, but one that can make or break a hockey game. You have to appreciate the effort.”
Clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the second period, Beau McCue picked Cole MacDonald’s pocket and beat Cotton for a short-handed goal at 16:28 and a 3-1 Tri-City lead.
The Americans have two short-handed goals and McCue has them both.
The Silvertips would cut into the lead with just 16 seconds left in the period as Tyler Sandhu scored his sixth goal of the season.
Winquist scored at 4:58 of the third to tie the score at 3.
“We climbed back in it and gave ourselves a chance,” Constantine said. “Tri is a good team and their goalie (Eric Comrie) keeps them in there. They do a good job.”
Connor Rankin opened the scoring for the Americans, beating Cotton, his childhood friend, at 3:05 of the first period.
Bowles had threaded the puck across the ice to Williams, whose shot rang off the post. Rankin was there to bang the puck into the net.
Everett came right back as Kohl Bauml gathered a rebound off a shot by Logan Aasman and put the puck behind Comrie at 5:37.
Tri-City would take a 2-1 lead into the break as Williams, working in the right circle on the power play, fired the puck over Adam Austin’s shoulder and past Cotton for his 15th goal of the season at 19:04.
“We’ve played Tri now three times and all have been really close,” said Constantine, whose team beat the Americans 2-0 on Friday. “We had good record coming into the week. We knew if we lost a couple of games we could be fifth in the division with a good record.”