The Tri-City Americans filed Friday’s loss to Victoria into the round file and started fresh Saturday night against rival Spokane.
Connor Rankin and Phil Tot each scored in the shootout to lead the Americans to a 2-1 victory over the Chiefs, ending a three-game slide before a crowd of 5,028 at Toyota Center.
“It’s a big win for us against them,” said Tot, whose shootout goal proved to be the difference. “I know around the room it feels unbelievable to get that one.”
The Americans (15-12-1-2) were on the end of an overtime loss in Spokane (17-9-0-2) last Saturday.
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“It sure feels good when you play hard and win,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. “It’s as close to a playoff game as we’ve had this season. For us emotionally, because it hurt so much last week, it would have stung had we not have won.”
Spokane coach Don Nachbaur would have preferred the win, but he’ll take the one point.
“I thought we played really well,” Nachbaur said. “We had some chances we didn’t score on. We could have been on the power play three or four more times. There were some that were overlooked. We got it to overtime and to a shootout and we didn’t get frustrated.”
The Americans had two power plays in the third, including one at 19:48 that carried into overtime, but the Chiefs were able to keep the puck out of the net, sending the game to a shootout.
“When you are given those cards, you have to play them,” Nachbaur said. “We penalty-killed really well.”
The shootout went six rounds, with Rankin scoring on the second shot and beating Eric Williams five-hole, and Tot with the last, who beat Williams low blocker side.
For Spokane, Mitch Holmberg scored first, but the next five shooters were turned away by Eric Comrie.
“Honestly, beating Spokane at home is enough,” said Rankin, who turned 19 on Saturday. “No offense to anyone else, but this is the best gift I got today. They are a great team over there. We battled really hard for (the win) tonight.”
Locked in a 1-1 tie going into the second, both teams had chances to turn the tide, but neither did.
Spokane had a goal by Cole Wedman waived off at 7:07 because the whistle had already blown. Four minutes later, Comrie stopped what should have been an easy goal by Connor Chartier.
The Americans had a pair of power plays, but managed just two shots between the two.
The Chiefs jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 7:41 of the first as Markson Bechtold’s pass off the right wall zipped across the slot to Riley Whittingham, who had an open net behind Comrie.
It took nearly the rest of the period for the Americans to even the score, which they did with 3 seconds left on their lone power play of the period.
Jessey Astles, all alone in the front of the net, reeled in a pass off the wall from Justin Gutierrez and waited for Spokane goalie Williams to make a move. Once Williams went down, Astles had an open net for his fifth goal of the season at 19:19.
“Real good work by Gutz and Ty (Comrie) on the wall to find him,” Hiller said. “Those good chances are only good chances if you can finish them. (Jessey) showed great patience on that one.”
The Americans shut down Spokane’s Holmberg, who leads the league with 30 goals and 64 points. Saturday was just the third time this season he was held scoreless.
“You have to give that to Marcus’ (Messier) line with Tot and (Lucas) Nickles,” Rankin said. “They did a fantastic job. They are the toughest line to shut down in the league this year. We didn’t give them anything.”
Comrie finished with 26 saves, earning praise from Tot.
“Eric was huge for us the whole game and in overtime and the shootout,” Tot said. “He has always been huge for us.”
Notes: Tri-City trails in the all-time series against Spokane 141-144-7-3 (13 ties). ... Hiller, who was Nachbaur’s assistant during the 2003-04 season in Tri-City, has a 19-19-2-0 mark against Nachbaur since becoming the Americans head coach.