The Tri-City Americans did their part in beating the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday night, but with Spokane topping Portland in overtime, the Americans’ run for the playoffs came to an end.
Brandon Carlo scored at 2:32 of overtime to give Tri-City a 2-1 victory, but just as the goal horn sounded, the Chiefs and Winterhawks ended regulation in a tie, putting both teams out of reach for the Americans.
“I’m proud of the way the guys played tonight,” Americans coach Mike Williamson said. “This was crushing. We dug ourselves a big hole the first half of the season, and we left things to chance.”
The Americans (34-34-2-1, 71 points), who will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season, will host the Chiefs on Saturday night with nothing more than pride on the line against their U.S. Division rivals.
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“We will make sure they are ready for tomorrow,” Williamson said. “They are athletes, and they should have pride to play.”
“That rivalry is a big part of being a Tri-City American,” Carlo said. “We want to go out on top.”
Carlo, who likely will play his final Western Hockey League game against Spokane on Saturday night, said finding out the Americans’ playoff hopes were over moments after winning was deflating.
“It is heartbreaking for the older guys,” Carlo said. “We are all pretty speechless right now. We had some hope. We win, and we have an opportunity. Unfortunately, we needed a little help, and nothing happened. This organization had been so great to all of us. It’s hard to understand how fast it goes. This becomes your life.”
Seattle (43-23-4-0, 90 points), which won the U.S. Division title earlier in the week, saw the end of its 11-game winning streak.
The Americans held a 1-0 lead after two periods, but the Thunderbirds erased the zero on their side of the scoreboard as Scott Eansor knocked the puck away from a Tri-City player and beat Evan Sarthou short-handed between the pads at 7:19 of the third.
Tri-City looked to take a 2-1 lead at 8:46 after an outstanding defensive play by Carlo.
With Seattle pressuring in front of Sarthou, Carlo swept the puck off the goal line, took it up the ice and dished it off to Parker Bowles, who appeared to score. But the goal was waved off after video review.
With neither team able to score during the remainder of regulation, the game went to overtime.
Both teams had several good scoring opportunities in the first, but Sarthou and Seattle’s Logan Flodell kept a tight seal on the goal.
After Flodell stopped breakaway chances by Bowles and Parker Wotherspoon, Sarthou denied Nick Holowko and Matthew Wedman on back-to-back shots at 6:45.
The Americans finally broke through at 17:14. Parker AuCoin stripped Garan Magnes of the puck and shoveled it to Nolan Yaremko, who put the puck over Flodell’s glove.
A scoreless second period brought about more big saves by the goalies, but none bigger than Flodell’s stop of Jordan Topping just 1:55 into the period.
With the backside of the net wide open, Topping had nothing but daylight between him and a goal, but Flodell dived across the crease just in time to get his stick down to deny Topping.
Sarthou and Flodell each finished with 27 saves.
Americans captain Beau McCue played his 269th game Friday, moving him to 13th all time in franchise history in games played. He surpassed Darrell Hay (268).
Honoring the past
Former Americans team captain Taylor Procyshen will be honored Saturday night with the Scholastic Alumni Achievement Award as part of the Western Hockey League’s 50th Season celebration.
Procyshen played 259 games over four seasons, recording 237 points. In his 2008-09 season, as team captain, he became the first Americans player to be named the WHL’s Humanitarian of the Year.
Procyshen has used his WHL scholarship to pursue a degree in agronomy. He will begin his master’s degree studies in soil fertility in September.
Procyshen will be at Toyota Center on Saturday night, meeting with fans before the game behind Section C.
The Americans and WHL will also award former players and current co-owners Stu Barnes and Olaf Kolzig the WHL Alumni Achievement Award in the professional hockey category.
Americans 2, Thunderbirds 1 (OT)
First — 1, TC, Yaremko 7 (AuCoin), 17:14. Penalties — Magnes, Sea (hooking), 11:42; Carlo, TC (interference), 19:12.
Second — No scoring. Penalties — None.
Third — 2, Sea, Eansor 11, 7:19 (sh). Penalties — True, Sea (boarding), 5:45; Neuls, Sea (roughing), 7:55; Lukin, TC (roughing), 7:55; Kolesar, Sea (closing hand on puck), 10:53; Holowko, Sea (tripping), 13:29.
Overtime — 3, TC, Carlo 4 (Rasmussen, Lukin), 2:32. Penalties — None.
Shots — Sea 11-4-12-1 — 28. TC 12-8-7-2 — 29. Power plays — Sea 0-1. TC 0-4. Goalies — Sea, Flodell 21-13-4-0 (29 shots-27 saves). TC, Sarthou 26-28-2-0 (28-27). Referees — Curtis Marouelli and Mike Campbell. A — 4,303.