The Tri-City Americans got off to a bit of a cold start Tuesday night, but once Justin Feser put the puck in the net, the scoring spread like wildfire.
The Americans scored four unanswered goals to rally for a 4-2 victory over the Portland Winterhawks before a crowd of 3,783 at the Toyota Center, running their win streak to six games.
“We didn’t have that good of a first period,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “We were flat and Troy (Trombley) had to make some saves to stabilize us. Feser’s goal ignited us and got the building going. For a Tuesday, it was loud.”
The Americans (37-22-1-2, 77 points) opened up a three-point lead over Spokane in the running for fourth place in the Western Conference standings. Both teams have 10 games remaining.
The Winterhawks (51-10-1-2), who are in the driver’s seat for the Scotty Munro trophy for the best regular-season record with a 105 points, had their five-game win streak snapped. Tri-City is the only team to beat the Winterhawks three times this season.
“I thought we played pretty well,” said Portland defenseman Seth Jones. “When you play here, you have to be careful not to give them momentum. In the third, they started to trap us, we tried to skate through and got caught. We have to rebound. We have a big game (today) against Edmonton.”
With Tuesday’s game, Feser now shares the WHL Iron Man record of 311 consecutive games played with Winnipeg, Manitoba, native Dwayne Newman (Feb. 2, 1988 through March 17, 1992), who played for the Brandon Wheat Kings and Victoria Cougars.
“It feels good,” said Feser, who could set the mark at 312 on Friday. “I don’t know how to describe this one. It’s not something I would picture myself accomplishing or look to do in my career. I’m thankful for the opportunity the organization has given me. I’ve just tried to make the most of it.”
The first period was scoreless until the last 1:38 when Portland’s Shaun MacPherson came out of the penalty box, took a pass up ice from Nic Petan and beat Trombley at the left post for a 1-0 lead.
The Winterhawks extended their lead to 2-0 at 5:39 of the second as Ty Rattie went top shelf on Trombley for his 40th goal of the season.
The Americans, who had several good scoring opportunities early in the second, finally solved Brendan Burke to tie the score by the end of the period.
Feser intercepted a pass by Portland’s Tyler Wotherspoon, brought the puck into the zone, split the defense and beat Burke in the slot at 13:36. It was Feser’s 150th career goal.
“That kind of took a little off the guys shoulders,” Feser said. “Knowing we were right back in it and a tie game is one shot away. It was a big goal and gave the guys a spark.”
Parker Bowles tied the score at 2-2 at 17:55, cleaning up a rebound off a long shot by Beau McCue. Bowles is Tri-City’s first 17-year-old rookie with 20 goals since before the 1995-96 season.
“As soon as I saw it, I shot it as hard as I could,” said Bowles, who also had an assist. “It was staring right at me.”
Connor Rankin and Zach Yuen added third-period goals for the Americans, who finished their regular-season schedule against Portland with a 3-6 record.
“They are a tough team to play,” Feser said. “It’s a good challenge and it’s fun to play them. When we do beat them, it’s a good accomplishment for the guys.”Trombley finished with 37 saves in running his record to 6-0-0-0, which started with a 6-2 win over Portland.
“He’s been impressive,” Jones said. “He’s stepped in and made things happen.”
Note: With 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Americans need three wins to reach 40 wins over seven consecutive seasons to tie a league record with Kamloops (1989-90 to 1995-96) and Regina (1979-80 to 1985-86).