Amerks cut Hitmen lead

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Apparently, the Americans have a goaltender, too.

Sick and tired of watching Calgary Hitmen puckstopper Martin Jones steal the show, Tri-City ’tender Alexander Pechurskiy boarded up his own net.

Pechurskiy kicked out 40 shots as the Americans staved off elimination Wednesday night with a 4-2 victory over the Hitmen in Game 4.

Tri-City bench boss Jim Hiller said it was nice to have the hot goalie between his pipes for a change.

“You have to believe and you have to plant doubt,” Hiller said. “We were frustrated when we couldn’t get to Jones, and I think they’re equally frustrated. They had a lot of great chances.

“Now they saw Alex use his pads, and hopefully, they see a lot of them on Friday.”

Mackenzie Royer and Giffen Nyren scored for the Hitmen, who were looking to sweep the Ams out of the WHL championship but instead will head home with a 3-1 series lead.

The Hitmen will take another crack at securing their third WHL title in franchise history in Friday’s Game 5 at the Saddledome (7 p.m., Shaw TV, Fan 960).

Zachary Yuen, Mason Wilgosh, Kruise Reddick and Justin Feser did the damage for the Americans.

But Pechurskiy, making just his second start of the post-season, was the real story.

After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the Hitmen came in waves, but Pechurskiy gave the Americans the type of goaltending Jones has provided the Hitmen over the past few months.

Nursing a 2-1 lead to start the third period, the Americans wasted little time adding some insurance.

Reddick tapped home a bang-bang play at the side of the crease just 20 seconds into the period and Tri-City had a 3-1 lead.

The powerplay marker was just the second in the series for the Americans, who entered the game 1-for-19 with the extra man.

The home side could have put the game away a few minutes later on a lengthy five-on-three advantage, but for the second time in as many nights, the Hitmen got through it unscathed.

The Hitmen nearly made it a one-goal game at the midway point of the period, but Nyren’s shot clanked off the iron and stayed out.

With the Hitmen gambling left, right and centre in search of some offence, Feser took off on a breakaway and made it 4-1 with 4:31 to play.

With Jones on the bench for an extra attacker, Nyren scored with 1:33 remaining, but the Hitmen would get no closer.

Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson wasn’t pleased after his club was handed just three powerplays over the two games in Tri-City.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hockey game where you generate as much as we did and end up with one powerplay at the end of the night,” Williamson said.

“It was (7)-2 for powerplays Tuesday night and we had one powerplay tonight. It’s got to be the cleanest team in the history of hockey.

“Our guys are doing everything we’re asking of them. We can’t get frustrated. We just have to play through that.”

The Americans got their first lead of the series midway through the opening period.

Yuen found himself unchecked in the slot, slapped his stick on the ice and got a pass from Brendan Shinnimin. Yuen’s shot eluded a screened Jones, and suddenly, the Toyota Center had life.

The Americans faithful were downright delirious less than five minutes later when Wilgosh’s first of the post-season gave the home side a 2-0 lead and matched the club’s offensive output through the first three games of the series.

The Hitmen hung Jones out to dry on the goal. The Calgary ’tender made one stop and then did the splits to rob Wilgosh on the rebound. But the Americans forward hit paydirt on the third attempt.

The Hitmen got one back late in the period when Royer buried his first of the playoffs on his own rebound.

Neither team scored during the middle frame, but it was far from uneventful with a combined 33 shots.

The Hitmen threw everything they had at Pechurskiy, but the Russian kicked out every one of the 22 pucks fired his way.

Hitmen co-captain Ian Schultz had a number of chances on odd-man rushes but couldn’t find the twine.


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