Opposing goaltenders are by nature regarded as Public Enemy No. 1.
Tri-City Americans goalie Eric Comrie had extra villainy added to his status on Saturday night as he stood between a large Spokane Chiefs crowd and its 6,560 teddy bears.
The teddy bears eventually rained down on the Chiefs’ ice at the Arena, but Comrie otherwise held the Chiefs in check as the Americans edged Spokane 2-1 in Western Hockey League play.
Comrie stopped 36 of 37 shots to become the fourth goalie this season to hold Spokane to one goal.
The Chiefs avoided their first shutout of the season when Reid Gow scored among a group in front of the T-C goal with 3 minutes and 14 seconds left. That was the signal for the near-sellout Spokane crowd to donate teddy bears to needy children by tossing them on the rink.
“It’s actually a lot of fun,” Comrie said of the extra pressure on Teddy Bear Toss night. “It adds a little incentive to being in goal and the team played really well in front of me, which helps.
“I couldn’t really see (Gow’s shot) and it took a weird bounce. Goals like that happen, but we regrouped and finished the game.”
Spokane’s goal came on its 33rd shot. The Chiefs had a couple of near-misses in the final minutes after pulling goalie Eric Williams, but Comrie held up.
“We got a lot of shots,” acting Chiefs head coach Jon Klemm said. “Obviously, he played extremely well. He’s a good goalie. We just made a couple of mistakes in the third period that cost us.”
Williams, who had a tough night Friday against Seattle, held the Americans scoreless until Justin Feser recorded his team-high 19th goal just 2:03 into the final period.
Malte Stromwall, who assisted on Feser’s goal, gave the Americans 2-0 advantage less than 3 minutes later.
“I thought (Williams) made some key saves tonight and I thought he gave us a chance to win,” Klemm said.
The game was clean considering the long rivalry between the teams. There were just six penalties called, three per side.
The Americans had lost six of eight games since an overtime win over Spokane on Nov. 23.
Spokane had won 13 of 15 home games this season and entered the game with a 4-0-1-0 record against the Americans.
“We weren’t getting a lot of second and third chances off our shots,” Klemm said. … “I thought it was a little more wide open than I like our structure to be.”
The Chiefs will turn their attention to U.S. Division first-place Portland for a Tuesday home game that will be Spokane’s final contest before a nine-day holiday break.
In their only meeting of the season, Portland roared past Spokane 9-1 on Nov. 10 at the Arena. Since then, Spokane has won nine of 12 games.
“We’re aware of how bad they beat us last time they were in here and we want to go back and redeem ourselves,” Klemm said.