After a rather disappointing start to the season, the Tri-City Americans have started to turn things around.
Four different players scored goals and Eric Comrie finished with 25 saves as the Americans thrashed the Brandon Wheat Kings 4-1 on Saturday night before a crowd of 3,657 at Toyota Center.
The Americans (8-8-0-1, 17 points) stretched their win streak to a season-high three games and finished their five-game homestand with a 4-1 record.
“It was a pretty good homestand. We needed that,” said Americans coach Jim Hiller. “That’s the real important part of the growth of a team is putting a winning streak together and feeling that your hard work and your passion is being rewarded. Then you can take the next step.”
Tri-City will head out for the first half of their Central Division swing Wednesday.
The Americans play at Medicine Hat on Friday, Lethbridge on Saturday and at Kootenay on Sunday.
“If we would have lost tonight or both nights, it would have been a long week for us,” said Americans captain Mitch Topping, who had two assists. “I can’t explain how big these wins were at home, this weekend especially. We are on a high heading into Alberta.”
Brandon (7-7-0-0, 14 points), which is two games — both losses — into its five-game U.S. Division tour, plays at Seattle on Tuesday.
When the Americans score the first goal of the game, they have won 8 of 10 games. Such was the case Saturday when Michal Plutnar launched a rocket of a shot from the right point on the power play to give Tri-City a 1-0 lead at 5:12 of the first.
Lucas Nickles would give the Americans a 2-0 lead at 16:54, redirecting a shot by Justin Hamonic from the left point on the power play.
Jessey Astles, who scored the game winner Friday in a shootout against Seattle, gave Tri-City a 3-0 lead at 2:24 of the second, taking a pass from Marcus Messier and beating Curtis Honey in the slot.
“They were really good last night and tonight,” Hiller said of the line of Astles, Messier and newcomer Devon McAndrews. “Our best line of the weekend. Two big guys and Marcus is really smart in the middle.”
The Wheat Kings finally got on the board late in the second as Taylor Cooper took a pass up ice from Quintin Lisoway, skated past Tri-City defenseman Wil Tomchuk and beat Comrie glove side at 17:25.
Brian Williams’ goal at 9:45 of the third gave Tri-City a 4-1 lead and was his 75th career point.
The Wheat Kings had three of their four power plays in the third period, but failed to convert on any of them.
“The penalty killers this past week have been the unsung heroes,” Hiller said. “We had to kill too many. I think Totter (Phil Tot) probably blocked four or five shots right in front of (Ryan) Pulock, who has one of the hardest shots in the league. We’re up 4-1 and he’s still blocking the bomb.”
Note: Brandon F John Quenneville is a cousin to Chicago Blackhawks coach Joe Quenneville.