Make room in the rafters, the Tri-City Americans are adding another banner to their impressive collection.
Ty Rimmer finished with 30 saves, and Zach Yuen scored the game winner to lead the Americans to their fourth U.S. Division title in five years Friday with a 4-1 victory over the Everett Silvertips before an appreciative crowd of 6,056 at Toyota Center.
"It feels pretty surreal to win the U.S. Division and the Western Conference in a span of 60 minutes," said Rimmer, who picked up his 31st win. "We knew we needed to win. We knew what was at stake. We all worked so hard for 71 games -- I feel we deserve this. It's a huge honor to be a part of a winning organization. We have a great thing going on here."
The Americans (50-17-2-2, 104 points), who won 50 games for just the second time in franchise history, will finish the regular season today against the visiting Spokane Chiefs.
"It's such a tough division and a long season," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "We played a lot of great teams and we are proud of what we've accomplished."
The Silvertips (21-40-2-8) are tied with the Seattle Thunderbirds with 52 points in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Everett is at Seattle tonight.
After a scoreless first, the action picked up in the second.
The Americans finally put a goal on the scoreboard at 14:32 as Adam Hughesman's shot off the right wall was redirected past Kent Simpson by Jordan Messier at the lower edge of the right circle. It was Messier's first goal in 12 games.
At the other end, Rimmer was kept busy, including a save at the right post on a short-handed breakaway by Josh Winquist with 3 minutes remaining in the period.
"It was a team effort defensively," Rimmer said. "Guys came up with huge plays like Mitch Topping on a 3-on-1 in the second. He showed great composure."
Topping, who spent two seasons in Chilliwack before coming over in an off-season trade, was happy to do his part.
"It's the least we could for him the way he played tonight," said Topping, who had never won a division title until Friday. "We knew Everett would be coming. We had to play simple and strong and keep the puck out of our zone.
"It has been awesome to win here with guys in my position -- Rimmer, (Derek) Ryckman and (Nate) MacMaster. We deserved this. We battled all year."
Everett's Reid Petryk tied the score at 13:43 of the third, but it was all Tri-City from there.
Yuen scored the game winner at 15:35, then Hughesman scored goals 49 and 50 in a span of 1:08 to seal the win.
Brendan Shinnimin assisted on both of Hughesman's goals to extend his point streak to 22 games, tying a franchise record set by Colton Yellow Horn in 2007-08.
"Shinny set me up for 49 and 50 and a lot more this season," said Hughesman, who's had a hand in helping the Americans win all four division banners. "I'm happy to be his teammate and friend. This is pretty special. But I don't think the job is done. We want to go out on top."
Hughesman, who has points in 13 of his last 14 games, joined Shinnimin in the 50-goal club. Not since 1994-95 has Tri-City had two players score 50 goals in one season.
"I'm really happy for Hughey," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "The last couple of weeks he's dug right in and has been rewarded with goals. He's taken it to another level."
Shinnimin, the WHL scoring leader, has 133 points. With one game remaining and a 14-point lead over Brandon's Mark Stone, it's safe to say he has earned the Bob Clarke trophy for regular-season scoring, only the second Tri-City player to earn the award. Daymond Langkow won in 1994-95.
Patrick Holland, with one assist, ran his point streak to 19 games. He leads the league with 84 assists.