Traditions are fun, and on New Year’s Eve the Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs know how to throw a party.
For the 29th consecutive year, the teams put on a show at Toyota Center, with Parker AuCoin scoring two short-handed goals, and adding an assist, to lead the Americans to a 6-1 victory over the Chiefs.
Tri-City goalie Beck Warm finished with 21 saves for his 18th win of the season.
“This is the most packed I have seen this building, and we put on a show for the fans,” AuCoin said. “They are our biggest rival, and we really brought it.”
The Americans lead the series 18-9-0-1 with one tie.
The holiday game was the first for coach Kelly Buchberger.
“It’s exciting for everybody,” he said. “It’s New Year’s Eve, the fans are jacked and they are feeling it. They were our seventh man, and they helped us tonight. It’s a big win for us.”
The Americans wasted no time in taking control of the game, scoring three times in the first period.
On a line change, Connor Bouchard flew off the Tri-City bench, went after Spokane’s Mike Layman and knocked the puck free. Bouchard fed the puck out front to Paycen Bjorklund, who scored his first goal of the season at 6:58.
Just 44 seconds later, Jarod Newell scored his first goal — and first point of the season — off an assist by Mitchell Brown.
Kyle Olson, with a nice feed from AuCoin, scored at 17:45 to give the Americans a 3-0 lead.
“Every line and every pairing played extremely well tonight,” Buchberger said.
In the second period, the Chiefs had four power plays, but the only goals came at the other end, where AuCoin scored unassisted at 11:18, and again at 18:53 off a feed from Olson.
Blake Stevenson finished the scoring for Tri-City at 16:29 of the third, as the Americans scored their third short-handed goal of the game.
The Chiefs got on the board with 30 seconds left in the game, as Spokane took advantage of a Tri-City turnover and Jake McGrew put the puck past Warm.
There has never been a shutout in the New Year’s Eve game.