It wasn’t the way the Tri-City Americans wanted to start their holiday break.
After winning three consecutive games, the Americans dropped a 6-3 game Saturday to the Seattle Thunderbirds before a crowd of 3,815 at Toyota Center.
Seattle used two goals within a span of 58 seconds to break a 3-all tie and take the lead for good. Matthew Wedman wrapped up the victory with a big blue bow with a goal at 14:38.
“We tied it up and got some energy,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. “They got two quick goals, and there wasn’t much life left on our bench.”
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Tri-City (14-19-1-0, 29 points) won four of its last seven games — all against U.S. Division opponents — to gain some ground in the playoff race.
“We won four and had an opportunity for five,” Williamson said. “We just have to enjoy the break and come back focused and committed.”
Seattle (19-11-3-0, 41 points), which ended a three-game skid, took sole possession of first place in the U.S. Division with the win and Everett’s loss to Vancouver.
The Thunderbirds had a 3-2 lead after two periods, but Juuso Välimäki’s shot from the point floated into the net to tie the score at 3-3 just 40 seconds into the third period. It was the only goal Logan Flodell would give up after replacing Taz Burman in the first period.
Owen Seidel gave Seattle a 4-3 lead at 7:53 with his first career WHL goal, and Nolan Volcan followed with his second of the night to put the game out of reach.
“I don’t think it was a lack of effort, we just didn’t get some bounces to go our way,” Tri-City defenseman Jeff Rayman said. “We go to break, then hop on the train again and get it going.”
Tri-City opened the game with a 2-0 lead, but quickly saw that dissolve as the Thunderbirds took control from the second period on.
“I thought everything they got in the second they deserved,” Williamson said of the Thunderbirds.
Evan Sarthou finished with 24 saves before giving way to rookie Nick Sanders with 5:22 to play in the game. Sanders had one save in relief.
Thunderbirds take control
Trailing 2-1 after the first period, Seattle tied things up at 9:54 as Ryan Gropp scored his second of the night, beating Sarthou over his blocker from the top of the circles.
The Americans had an opportunity to take the lead with 8 minutes remaining in the period with Flodell out of position and the net wide open, but failed to convert.
Seattle was the beneficiary of a 5-on-3 power play for 1:22 late in the second period. The Americans killed off the front half of the penalty, but Volcan’s shot off the cross bar dropped in the net as time was winding down on the back half to give the Thunderbirds a 3-2 lead.
It’s Rayman goals
The Americans jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 1:27 into the game as Rayman jumped on a long rebound and blasted the puck into the net from the point for his first goal and first point in an Americans’ sweater.
It was Rayman’s second career goal. His first came nearly two years ago to the day — Dec. 12, 2013, against Prince George when he played for the Spokane Chiefs.
“I’m not a guy who scores a lot of goals, but it feels good to contribute,” Rayman said.
Rookie Michael Rasmussed extended the Americans’ lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal at 6:10. Rasmussen chipped away at a loose puck at the right post until it went into the net past Burman.
That would be the end of the night for Burman, who allowed two goals on five shots. He was replaced by Flodell.
Seattle would cut the deficit in half at 12:51 as Gropp gathered up a loose puck at the Tri-City blue line and headed up ice all alone against Sarthou.
World Junior invites
Tri-City defenseman Brandon Carlo is at the U.S. National Team Camp, along with Seattle forward Scott Eansor. Both survived the first round of cuts Saturday. Team USA travels to Finland today to continue its training camp. ... Thunderbirds forward Mathew Barzal is attending Team Canada’s WJC selection camp. Team Canada is in Finland for a series of pre-tournament game. It beat Belarus 7-1 on Saturday. ... Seattle forward Alexander True was named to the Danish preliminary roster for the WJC. He is in Sweden for training camp.
Welcome to the family
The Americans signed 2015 draft pick Liam Belcourt to a standard players agreement. Belcourt, was taken in the fourth round (71st overall).
The 6-foot-3, 188-pound defenseman from Sherwood Park, Alberta, plays for the Okanogan Hockey Academy’s Edmonton Prep Team. He has one goal and three assists in 23 games.
The Americans are off for the WHL Christmas break until Dec. 27 when they play at Portland. The Americans will host the Winterhawks Dec. 29, before hosting the Spokane Chiefs in their annual New Year’s Eve bash.
Thunderbirds 6, Americans 3
First — 1, TC, Rayman 1 (Bowles, Topping), 1:27. 2, TC, Rasmussen 9 (Sandhu), 6:10 (pp). 3, Sea, Gropp 17, 12:51. Penalties — Tyszka, Sea (cross-checking), 2:36; AuCoin, TC (charging), 2:36; Khaira, Sea (cross-checking), 5:50; Yaremko, TC (interference), 7:17; Uhrich, Sea (tripping), 15:36; Topping, TC (hooking), 17:05.
Second — 4, Sea, Gropp 18 (Kolesar), 9:54. 5, Volcan 7 (Khaira), 18:25 (pp). Penalties — Ottenbreit, Sea (boarding), 2:36; McCue, TC (tripping), 16:00; Rutledge, TC (delay of game), 16:39.
Third — 6, TC, Välimäki 6 (Bowles, Rasmussen), :40. 7, Sea, Seidel 1 (Ormsby), 7:53. 8, Sea, Volcan 8 (Watson, Smith), 8:51. Penalties — Ottenbreit, Sea (holding), 1:00; Ramussen, TC (tripping), 2:48; Hauf, Sea (misconduct), 18:33; Wedman, Sea (miscondcut), 18:33; Rasmussen, TC (misconduct), 18:33; Välimäki, TC (misconduct), 18:33; Wotherspoon, TC (high-sticking), 18:33.
Shots — Sea 7-12-12 — 31. TC 12-6-7 — 25. Power plays — Sea 1-6. TC 1-4. Goalies — Sea, Burman 7-4-0-0 (5 shots-3 saves), Flodell 12-7-3-0 (6:10 of 1st, 20-19). Sarthou 12-18-1-0 (30-24), Sanders (14:38 of third, 1-1). Referees — Mike Campbell and Mark Pearce. A— 3,815.