SPOKANE -- The Tri-City Americans got off to a hot start and led wire-to-wire in handing the Spokane Chiefs a 4-1 loss Saturday night before an announced crowd of 9,856 at Spokane Arena.
"I thought we played very well," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "It's the best game our group of defensemen have played all year. We did a good job of having numbers back and our blue line not giving them easy entries."
The Americans (12-5-0-0) held on to the top spot in the U.S. Division with 24 points. The Portland Winterhawks also have 24 points, but Tri-City has three games in hand.
It was the first home loss for the Chiefs (8-4-0-1, 17 points) in nine games, and the second consecutive loss to the Americans, who lead the 12-game series 3-1.
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Jordan Messier was the first to find the net for the Americans, redirecting a shot by Brendan Shinnimin on the power play at 3:40.
Nathan MacMaster and Adam Hughesman scored 58 seconds apart later in the first, chasing Spokane starter Mac Engel from the net after he allowed three goals on eight shots.
"We wanted to get pucks on net," Hiller said. "Hughesman's was a good shot. (Engel) didn't have much of a chance on that one."
The Chiefs' lone goal came at 19:34 of the second as Mike Aviani collected a rebound off a Davis Vandane shot and found daylight to the left of Americans goalie Ty Rimmer.
Rimmer finished with 23 saves to improve to 8-3-0-0 on the season and 3-0 against Spokane.
Drydn Dow finished the scoring for Tri-City as his shot from the point zipped past Luke Lee-Knight at 13:23 of the third.