The Tri-City Americans let a four-goal lead get away from them Tuesday night, but they did not let the game escape their grasp.
Parker Wotherspoon and Jordan Roy scored 21 seconds apart in the third period as the Americans held off the Portland Winterhawks 6-4 before a crowd of 2,700 at Toyota Center.
The Americans (13-18-1-0, 27 points) are just three points back of the Winterhawks (15-16-0-0, 30 points) with two games remaining before the league’s Christmas break.
“Our division is so close, every point counts,” said Wotherspoon, who also had an assist. “We are challenging for a playoff spot.”
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After jumping out to a 4-0 lead after the first, the Americans watched the Winterhawks go on a four-goal run in the second to tie the score heading into the third.
“We talked after the first about being smart and playing the same way,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. “We didn’t. In the third, we got back to work and won the game.”
Wotherspoon put the Americans out front 5-4, scoring from the point at 6:29 for his sixth goal of the season.
Roy scored his first WHL goal just 21 seconds later for a 6-4 lead.
“I saw (Austyn Playfair) pick up the puck. He drove the net, and I was open in the slot,” Roy said. “He gave me the puck. Luckily, it went in. It was awesome.”
The Winterhawks pulled rookie goalie Michael Bullion for the final 1:42 for an extra attacker but could not get back in the game.
“I thought in the first and third we created chances, we got around the net and were rewarded,” Williamson said. “After giving up that lead in the second, we showed a lot of resilience in the third.”
Parker Bowles, Vladislav Lukin and Michael Rasmussen each had two assists on the night, while Evan Sarthou finished with 20 saves.
Four for you, four for me
After watching the Americans score four unanswered goals in the first period, the Winterhawks turned the tables in the second.
Cody Glass got Portland on the board at 1:29. Just 2 1/2 minutes later, Rihard Bukarts found Blake Heinrich cutting to the net and laced a cross-ice pass to Heinrich, who beat Sarthou to cut the deficit to 4-2.
Alex Schoenborn scored shorthanded at 10:17, and Dominic Turgeon tied the score at 17:21.
Bullion, who gave up four goals on 12 shots in the first, held the Americans scoreless on 10 shots in the second.
Goals a plenty
Bullion could not stop the onslaught of shots by Tri-City, which opened the scoring just 2:21 into the game with a goal by Brian Williams.
Tyler Sandhu followed at 8:04, gathering his own rebound and beating Bullion for his seventh goal of the season.
Jordan Topping kept the goals coming, scoring at 15:13 and 19:36 to give the Americans a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes.
On his first goal, Topping gathered a loose puck, took it up ice and beat Bullion. On his second, he redirected a shot from the point by Wotherspoon.
Winterhawks flying without Bittner
Portland forward Paul Bittner had successful hip surgery over last weekend and will be out indefinitely. He had 10 goals and 11 assists in 25 games before being injured.
Spokane’s Helewka draws 6-game suspension
Spokane Chiefs forward Adam Helewka was suspended six games by the WHL for actions following the end of the Chiefs’ home game versus Tri-City on December 12.
Helewka will be eligible to return to the lineup for Spokane’s road game Jan. 2 at Portland.
Spokane also was fined $1,000 for actions of players following the game.
Americans 6, Winterhawks 4
First — 1, TC, Williams 7 (Lukin, Sandhu), 2:21. 2, TC, Sandhu 7 (Välimäki, Rasmussen), 8:04. 3, TC, Topping 12 (Bowles, Rasmussen), 15:13. 4, TC, Topping 13 (Wotherspoon, Bowles), 19:36. Penalties — Nagel, Por (interference), 6:00; Topping, TC (misconduct), 20:00.
Second — 5, Por, Glass 5 (Bukarts, Schoenborn), 1:29. 6, Por, Heinrich 2 (Bukarts, Schoenborn), 4:48. 7, Por, Schoenborn 11, 10:17 (sh). 8, Por, Turgeon 15 (Weinger, De Jong), 17:21. Penalties — Overhardt, Por (roughing), 9:06; Yaremko, TC (roughing), 9:06; Bullion, Por (playing outside the trapezoid), 9:06; Dougherty, Por (holding), 11:55; Overhardt, Por (roughing), 16:44; McKenzie, Por (roughing), 16:44; Topping, TC (slashing), 16:44; Sandhu, TC (roughing), 16:44; Texeira, Por (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00; Playfair, TC (slashing), 20:00.
Third — 9, TC, Wotherspoon 6 (Rutledge, Lukin), 6:29. 10, TC, Roy 1 (Playfair), 6:50. Penalties — Heinrich, Por (slashing), 16:07; Coghlan, TC (slashing), 16:35.
Shots — Por 5-13-6 — 24. TC 12-10-7 — 29. Power plays — Por 0-1. TC 0-4. Goalies — Por, Bullion 1-3-0-0 (29 shots-23 saves). TC, Sarthou 12-17-1-0 (24-20). Referees — Brett Iverson and Jason Nissen. A — 2,700.