The Regina Pats, who rallied from two goals down in the third period Wednesday for a win over Everett, were well on their way to staging another comeback win Friday, but the Tri-City Americans were able to weather the storm.
The Americans, behind two goals from Brian Williams, beat the Pats 5-3 before a crowd of 4,178 at Toyota Center to improve to 3-0 against the East Division this season.
“We scored on our chances and they didn’t score on theirs the first two periods. That’s how I saw it,” said Americans coach Jim Hiller. “I thought it was even, or they were even better in the first two, but we scored some nice goals. In the end, it was more fitting of what it should have been.”
Tri-City goalie Eric Comrie picked up his 50th WHL victory, registering 28 saves.
“It’s really exciting,” Comrie said. “This is a great league with a lot of great goaltenders. I’m excited to reach that milestone.”
It was Shaun Vey Aware Down There Night, and the Americans and the Tri-Cities Cancer Center raised funds for men’s health issues. The event, in its first go-round, raised $2,377.60.
Vey, who played for the Americans from 2004-08, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in February. He had become an advocate for the cause.
Leading 4-0 after two periods, the Americans gave up two quick goals to the Pats early in the third as Adam Brooks and Boston Leier — with his 50th WHL goal — scored three minutes apart for a 4-2 game at 5:27.
Regina’s Braden Christoffer scored at 15:26 to make it a one-goal game, but Tri-City’s Lucas Nickles gave the Americans a little breathing room with a goal at 18:08.
“It wasn’t a breakdown on our team,” Williams said. “They are capable of doing that. They were capable of doing that all game, they just happened to do it at that time. It was a little scary for a second.”
The Pats pulled goalie Nick Schneider with 1:10 remaining for an extra attacker, but couldn’t get anything past Comrie.
“They are a good team,” Hiller said. “They didn’t give us much. They are one of the better offensive teams we’ve seen. We finished tonight and that’s important.”
After taking a 1-0 lead in the first, the Americans scored three goals in the second for a 4-0 lead.
Williams backhanded the puck into the net just 10 seconds into the period, and Phil Tot extended the lead to 3-0, taking the puck at the red line, getting behind defenseman Jesse Zgraggen and beating Schneider glove side.
“It was definitely a blind shot, but if you are going to say it’s a pretty goal, why not, I’ll take it,” Williams said of his first goal. “It was just a weird thing. Tops (Mitch Topping) was with me on a 2-on-1, then he gave me a pass. I just wanted to get it on net and it ended up in the back of the net.”
Williams would make it 4-0, taking a cross-ice pass from Parker Bowles and beating Schneider from the right circle at 17:55 on the power play.
“He teed it up perfect for me,” Williams said of Bowles’ pass. “Empty net, too. There was no one in the net.
Bowles and Topping each finished with two assists.
Comrie, who always gives his defense credit at the end of every game, was giving hugs just 2 minutes into the game as Riley Hillis, sans stick, dived in the crease and a stopped a shot by Dyson Stevenson.
Comrie had stopped the initial shot — a breakaway by Dryden Hunt — but the rebound was out of his reach.
“He made an unbelievable play. It was exciting to see that,” Comrie said. “All of our guys have that commitment to go out and win hockey games. That’s what it takes.”