Historically, the Tri-City Americans have rang in the new year with a win over the Spokane Chiefs in their annual New Year’s Eve bash at Toyota Center.
But times, they are a changing.
The Chiefs scored four goals in the second period Thursday night en route to a 5-2 victory over the Americans in front of a rowdy crowd of 5,808 to win their third consecutive game in the holiday series.
“It’s never fun,” Tri-City veteran forward Parker Bowles said of losing to their U.S. Division rival. “We want to keep it entertaining for our fans. This sucks.”
The Americans still lead the series 15-9-0-1 with one tie, but on Thursday the Chiefs got a solid performance in goal by Tyson Verhelst (22 saves) and two goals by Keanu Yamamoto to pick up their fifth win over Tri-City this season.
The Americans (15-20-2-0, 32 points) jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 1:38 into the second period as Bowles took a feed from Jordan Topping and put the puck in an empty corner of the net behind Verhelst. Bowles and Topping each ran their point streaks to seven games.
The Chiefs (19-14-3-1, 42 points) tied the score at 5:03 with the first of Yamamoto’s two goals in the period.
Bowles looked to give the Americans a 2-1 lead at 13:09 going to the net on a short-hand breakaway, but he was hauled down by Spokane’s Hudson Elynuik and was awarded a penalty shot.
Bowles had Verhelst at his mercy, but the Chiefs goalie made an outstanding save to keep the score tied.
Spokane would add three goals in the final 3:54 of the period to take a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes. Markson Bechtold, Ethan McIndoe and Yamamoto with his second, gave the Chiefs a little something to cheer about.
Dominic Zwerger gave the Chiefs a 5-1 lead 4:09 into the third period, and Bowles scored his second of the night at 8:58 for the final margin.
“I thought we were close all night,” Bowles said. “A couple of bounces went in for them. We have to look at the positives and ride that into our next game.”
Tri-City rookie goalie Nick Sanders, coming off a big win over Portland on Tuesday, finished with 32 saves.
Coming up zeros
In a spirited first period, in which the Chiefs outshot the Americans 11-3, neither team could put the puck in the net.
Spokane rang the puck off the pipe at 5:50 during its first power play, and Sanders denied Zwerger 3 minutes later.
Late in the period, Tri-City’s Nolan Yaremko had a short-handed opportunity, but was turned away by Verhelst.
Going old school
The Americans wore the original (but newly made) black, yellow and white jerseys of the team’s first year in the league (1988) in honor of the WHL’s 50th season. The game-worn jerseys (signature is optional) went up for auction after the game at AmsHockeyAuctions.com. The auction runs through 10 p.m. Jan. 3. Minimum bid is $250 with a buy-it-now option of $650. All proceeds from the sales benefit the Americans’ Player’s Continuing Education Fund.
The Americans play at Seattle on Saturday to finish a four-games-in-seven-nights stretch. Tri-City will venture to Vancouver Island to take on the Victoria Royals on Tuesday and Wednesday.
World Junior Championship
Four different U.S. players scored and Brandon Halverson made 16 saves as the U.S. National Junior Team defeated Denmark 4-1 in its final preliminary round game at the World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland.
Colin White, Auston Matthews, Anders Bjork and Sonny Milano scored for Team USA, while Matthews and Milano each had two assists.
Tri-City defenseman Brandon Carlo was plus-1 on the day and was named Team USA’s Player of the Game.
With the win, Team USA secured second place in Group A and will play its quarterfinal game Saturday against the Czech Republic.
Chiefs 5, Americans 2
First — No scoring. Penalties — Sozanski, Spo (holding), 8:33Rutledge, TC (cross-checking), 4:42; Sandhu, TC (high-st-sticking), 10:03; Fram, Spo (roughing), 16:24; James, TC (checking from behind), 18:32.
Second — 1, TC, Bowles 21 (Topping, Olson), 1:38 (pp) 2, Spo, Ke.Yamamoto 9 (Sozanski, Whittingham), 5:03. 3, Spo, Bechtold 9 (Zwerger, Fram), 16:06 (pp). 4, Spo, McIndoe 4 (Fram), 17:44. 5, Spo, Ke.Yamamoto 10 (Whittingham, Helgesen), 19:29. Penalties — Fiala, Spo (interference), 1:21; Yaremko, TC (tripping), 12:34; Olson, TC (interference), 15:36; Stewart, TC (interference), 20:00.
Third — 6, Spo, Zwerger 13 (Ka.Yamamoto, Bechtold), 4:09 (pp). 7, TC, Bowles 22 (Välimäki), 8:58. Penalties — Krebs, TC (high-sticking), 2:44; Fiala, Spo (roughing), 19:10; Cadiff, Spo, (roughing), 19:10; Topping, TC (roughing), 19:10; Rasmussen, TC (roughing), 19:10; Wotherspoon, TC (roughing), 19:10.
Shots — Spo 11-12-14 — 37. TC 3-13-8 — 24. Power plays — Spo 2-8. TC 1-3. Missed penalty shot — Bowles, TC (13:09, 2nd). Goalies — Spo, Verhelst 16-9-0-1 (24 shots-22 saves). TC, Sanders 3-2-0-0 (37-32). Referees — Reid Anderson and Chris Crich. A — 5,808.