Tri-City Americans

Ams stay hot on home ice with win over Winterhawks

Add the Portland Winterhawks to the list of WHL teams that have not been able to win a game at Toyota Center this season.

Johnny Lazo recorded his third hat trick of the season and Mason Wilgosh scored a pair of goals as the Tri-City Americans beat Portland 6-2 on Saturday night before a crowd of 5,613.

"I thought we played really well," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, who surpassed John Olver for sixth on the franchise's all-time coaches wins list with 34. "What's more impressive is (we were) coming off two games that were bad. We showed character tonight against an exceptional team."

The Americans (34-11-0-1, 69 points), who are a league-best 20-4-0-0 on home ice, are 6-0 against the Winterhawks this season. Tri-City is tied atop the WHL standings with East-leading Saskatoon (32-10-2-3, 69 points).

Of the 13 teams that have played at Toyota Center this season, Portland (27-18-1-1, 56 points) joins the list of nine to walk away empty-handed. The Winterhawks dropped to third in the U.S. Division, one point behind second-place Everett and 13 behind Tri-City.

"Anytime you play against a top team and you are behind three that quick, it's not a good night," said Portland coach Mike Johnston. "It happens each time we play them. We didn't start well and our puck movement wasn't good."

On a night when the Americans wore nuclear-inspired jerseys, Portland starting goalie Ian Curtis had a meltdown, allowing three goals on five shots in the first 6:41 of the game.

Johnny Lazo opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 2:45, taking a pass from Brendan Shinnimin in the slot and beating Curtis for his 26th of the season and a 1-0 Tri-City lead.

Mason Wilgosh gave the Americans a 2-0 lead when he pulled the puck out of the corner, skated around the net and put a sharp-angled shot on net. The puck slipped though Curtis' pads and in the.

Lazo finished the three-goal spree and Curtis' night when his blast from the right circle hit the cross bar and dropped in the net at 6:41.

"We attacked tonight," Hiller said. "We had our feet going, were quick on the forecheck and had good support. Things we didn't have last night."

The Winterhawks avoided being shutout in the first when Chris Francis took a pass from Luke Walker on a 2-on-1 and beat Drew Owsley at the right post at 15:18 for a 3-1 game.

Come the second period, the Americans were back at it, going up ice on a 3-on-2 after Portland's Joe Morrow had his stick explode on a shot.

Wilgosh led the short-handed rush and his shot on goal was turned aside by Mac Carruth. Tyler Schmidt picked up the puck on the right wall and sent to toward the net, where Carruth again made the stop. But this time the rebound went straight to Kruise Reddick at the top of the crease.

Reddick passed the puck to Wilgosh at the left post for an easy goal at 2:31 and a 4-1 lead. The assist moved Reddick to 17th on the Americans' all-time scoring list with 181 career points.

Patrick Holland, who had a hat trick for Tri-City on Friday against Seattle, gave the Americans a comfortable 5-1 lead at 10:05.

Nino Niederreiter, the star of the Swiss team at the World Junior Championship, pulled Portland to within 5-2 at 4:44 of the third, but Lazo took away any hopes of a Winterhawks rally when he completed his hat trick at 13:55.

"Coach gave us a bit of a wake-up call after the last two games," said Lazo, who leads the team with 28 goals. We turned the ship around tonight. Our focus is to get on teams early. This building can be intimidating and you can tell how a team responds."

Owsley finished with 23 saves for his league-leading 29th win, while Schmidt had three assists to reach 100 career points.

*Annie Fowler: 582-1574; afowler@tricityherald.com

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