The Tri-City Americans scored all the goals they would need against the road-weary Saskatoon Blades in the first period, running their record to 4-0 against the East Division.
Connor Rankin had a goal and an assist, Phil Tot added two assists and Eric Comrie had 25 saves in a 3-1 win over the Blades before a Tuesday night crowd of 3,280 fans at Toyota Center.
“They worked hard,” Americans coach Jim Hiller said of Saskatoon. “It was their fourth game in five nights. They busted their butts from start to finish. They have some highly skilled forwards, but Marcus’ (Messier) line (that includes Tot and Lucas Nickles) was shutting them down. Hamo (Justin Hamonic) and Spoons (Parker Wotherspoon) are the defensive pairing and together they have kept quality players down to minimum chances the last two games.”
The Americans (16-12-1-2), who will play Friday and Saturday at Prince George, ran their home record to 11-5-0-0.
The Blades (10-18-1-2), who are 0-4 on their U.S. Division trek, finish their trip tonight at Spokane.
“This is the fourth game where we haven’t given up,” said Saskatoon coach Dave Struch. “That is the identity we want to create with such a young group of guys. Our energy and enthusiasm wasn’t there in the first period. We bounced back in the second and third. You could see they were tired but the effort is there. You have to go through these growing pains to have some success.”
The Americans exploited the Blades’ 20th-ranked penalty kill in the first period, scoring two power-play goals, then added an even-strength goal with a half-second left in the period for a 3-0 lead.
Taylor Vickerman scored his first goal since returning to the lineup last week, taking a drop pass from Phil Tot in the slot and beat Saskatoon starter Alex Moodie at 5:47 on the man advantage.
Working on a power play late in the period, Connor Rankin took a pass at the left post from Tot, swept the puck around defenseman Graeme Craig’s stick and put the puck between Moodie’s pads at 17:51.
“It happened so fast,” Rankin said. “I didn’t find anyone open, so I decided to throw it on net. After my shootout goal against Spokane (last Saturday), I guess I like going five-hole now.”
Rankin’s goal spelled the end of Moodie’s run in net.
Former Tri-City goalie Troy Trombley took over.
Trombley didn’t fare much better to start, but settled down to post 17 saves.With time winding down, Matthew Gelinas peeled the puck off the back wall and sent it out to Beau McCue, who lifted it over Trombley’s left shoulder with a half-second left on the clock.
It would be the only goal Trombley would give up.
“After he gave up that goal, he made a couple of nice saves and we drew some energy off that,” Struch said. “The last 40 minutes he did a nice job. He battle back and that’s what we need.”
The Blades got one goal back in the second as Logan Harland took a slick pass across the slot from Graham Millar on a 2-on-1 and beat Comrie up high at 11:31.
“They are a very good team,” Rankin said. “Their record doesn’t reflect how good they are. They are hard working and they have a lot of skill. With the win over Spokane over the weekend and tonight, it’s nice to get a win streak going.”
Note: The Americans shut down the Blades’ top-ranked power play, killing off all three chances. ... Spokane forward Liam Stewart will play for Great Britain in the IIHF U20 World Championship Division I Group B. The tournament is scheduled for Dec. 9-15 in Dumfries, Scotland.