There’s never a lack of drama when the Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs take the ice.
On Saturday night, the Americans helped themselves to two much-needed points, holding off the Chiefs 3-1 before a rowdy crowd of 4,975 at Toyota Center.
Phil Tot had a pair of goals and Eric Comrie finished with 31 saves as the Americans improved to 15-8-1-0 on home ice.
“That game was something else,” Tot said. “(Josh) Thrower’s fight and all the physicality. It’s not a typical Americans’ year and it was nice to have the fans behind our backs.”
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It was the second two-goal game by Tot this season.
“You take into account the penalty kills, playing against (Mitch) Holmberg and the goals, you can appreciate his work tonight,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said of Tot. “It was real impressive.”
Tri-City (21-21-2-2, 46 points), which sits eighth in the Western Conference standings, opened a five-point lead over ninth-place Prince George. The Americans host the Vancouver Giants today.
Spokane (27-14-2-2, 58 points), in the midst of a three-game U.S. Division road trip, is at Portland today.
The Americans held a precious 2-1 lead going into the third period, and Tot scored his second of the night at 8:54 to give Tri-City a little breathing room.
“Off the draw, the puck got back to Spoons (Parker Wotherspoon) and we made eye contact,” Tot said. “It was a great shot by him and I tipped it in.”
The Chiefs pulled goalie Eric Williams with 3:57 left in regulation for an extra attacker, but couldn’t get anything past Comrie.
“Our team did an excellent job boxing out and not giving up any second chances,” Comrie said. “We did an excellent job offensively and defensively. For me, every game is big. I have to focus and play in the moment — one puck at a time.”
Comrie came up big during the Chiefs’ lone power play midway through the third, stopping Holmberg, who had gotten behind the defense to face Comrie one-on-one.
Playing deep into the second period tied at 1-1, Tri-City took a 2-1 lead at 16:47.
Brandon Carlo started the play with a shot from the left point. The puck ricocheted off Eric’s Williams’ pads to a waiting Brian Williams, who backhanded the puck into the net for his 27th goal of the season.
The Chiefs had a power play earlier in the second, and despite five shots on goal — Holmberg got robbed by Comrie’s glove on one — Spokane came up empty.
After two fights — including one by Thrower — and a plenty of rough rides into the boards to highlight the first half of the opening period, the Americans earned their first power play at 10:11 and made the most of the opportunity.
It took just 7 seconds for the Americans to find the net, with Tot sliding in to knock the puck in the net off a rebound from a shot from the point by Michal Plutnar.
The Chiefs answered at 15:55 as Dominic Zwerger found Keanu Yamamoto all alone to the right of Comrie. Yamamoto had a wide open net for his third goal of the season.
It didn’t take long for Thrower to set the tone for the game, getting the best of Spokane’s Jeremy McIntosh just 3:36 into the contest. It was Thrower’s sixth fight of the season, and his first with Tri-City.
“Thrower came out and introduced himself to the fans in the Tri-Cities and got our bench going,” Hiller said. “I think (the fans) liked what they saw.”
Notes: Tri-City forward Beau McCue played his 100th WHL game, while Spokane’s Marcus Messier played his 200th game.