KENNEWICK -- The Tri-City Americans were short-handed Wednesday night, but playing within the friendly confines of Toyota Center, they were able to draw on the comforts of home to beat Kamloops.
Rookie Connor Rankin had a goal and two assists, and Drew Owsley posted his third shutout of the season as the Americans beat the Blazers 5-0 to win their 12th in a row on home ice.
"Great teams find a way to win, and playing at home is always an advantage," Americans defenseman Paul Sohor said. "We are a great home team -- we haven't lost at home since I've been here (since Dec. 7). We were focusing on not putting too much pressure on ourselves. When we shy away from that, we struggle. We are short-handed, and we need to find what makes us successful."
The Americans were without forwards Neal Prokop (leg) and Jordan Messier (concussion) and defenseman Sam Grist, all of whom were out with injuries.
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The Americans (28-12-2-1, 59 points) closed the gap on U.S. Division leaders Spokane and Portland -- each team has 61 points -- and improved to 17-2-0-1 at Toyota Center.
Sohor gave the Americans a 1-0 lead late in the first period as his blast from the left point beat Kamloops goalie Cam Lanigan at 14:59.
"I thought we started with energy, but we didn't score," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "We've been coming out and scoring pretty quickly, but we didn't have that tonight. It was a challenge to maintain focus and not get frustrated. Then we finally got to the goalie. Paul's played seemed like it was his 20th goal not his second. He stepped back, went around and attacked."
Things picked up in the second for Tri-City, which took a 3-0 lead and killed off four Kamloops power plays, including a 5-on-3.
"That was a big kill," said Owsley, who finished with 21 saves. "After that penalty kill there was a change in the building and in us -- we had a little more jump. We were a little flat in the first. It was huge to get contributions from everyone and that was a big goal by Paul."
Carter Ashton, with a nice pass from Tyler Schmidt, gave the Americans a 2-0 lead at 5:07, finding an empty net behind Lanigan shortly after killing off the 5-on-3.
Rankin took advantage of a Kamloops turnover 19 seconds later to put the Americans out front 3-0.
Tri-City defenseman Matt MacKenzie sent the puck up ice where Lanigan stopped it and set it at the left post for Bronson Maschmeyer. Maschmeyer overskated the puck, Rankin picked it up, brought it out front and lifted it over Lanigan's left pad for his 10th goal of the season.
"I saw his stick was going to miss, I saw no one was coming and I took a second and scored a goal finally," Rankin said. "It was one of my better games. With (Kruise) Reddick and (Mason) Wilgosh on my line it's been hard to keep up with them. They move. Wilgosh is so quick that during the game you can't see his legs move. Reddick, I can't believe how hard he works in the corner to get the puck out."
In the third, the Americans found themselves with a five-minute power play after Josh Caron was nailed for spearing Schmidt, and capitalized on the opportunity with a pair of goals.
Matt MacKenzie blasted one in the net from the point at 9:24, while Adam Hughesman scored his team-leading 28th of the season at 13:31.
Lanigan finished with 30 saves for Kamloops (21-25-1-1, 44 points), which has lost seven straight to Tri-City.
"They played us hard," Hiller said of the Blazers, who also were down two players. "They went nose-to-nose with us."