Evan Sarthou didn’t figure to get so many starts in the net for the Tri-City Americans this season.
The young goaltender certainly didn’t figure to register four shutouts in nine days.
But there Sarthou was again Saturday night, perplexing Spokane with a 2-0 shutout at the Arena that handed the Chiefs their fifth consecutive loss.
The 17-year-old Sarthou made 26 saves as the Americans (24-22-0-2, 50 points) moved into a tie for third place in the Western Hockey League’s U.S. Division with Spokane (23-19-3-1) and Seattle.
“Now that we’re getting healthy again, we’re starting to climb back up and it’s good,” Sarthou said. “A lot of guys who played a small role earlier in the year, before the injuries, are playing a bigger role now and doing a fantastic job.”
Sarthou began the season as the backup to Eric Comrie, the Winnipeg Jets’ second-round selection in the 2013 National Hockey League draft. Comrie has missed some time while playing at elite tournaments and is currently nursing an injury.
Sarthou has manned the net since Dec. 9 and caught fire the last nine days, with shutouts Jan. 16 at Vancouver, Jan. 17 against Spokane and Friday against Seattle.
“We had chances, I think three 2-on-1s, and we didn’t beat their goalie,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said. “Their goalie made saves. And that’s a little bit to do with us executing. So at the end of the day we fell short.”
“It’s not just me,” Sarthou said. “The team’s playing well in front of me and letting me see pucks and keeping the shots down to a minimum.”
The Americans’ Lucas Nickles and Beau McCue scored their club-leading 18th goals of the season in the third period. Nickles stole a whiffed puck at the blue line and beat Garret Hughson top-shelf on a breakaway 41 seconds into the third. McCue added an empty-netter with 9 seconds left.
Spokane outshot the Americans 26-23, but the Chiefs were limited to six shots in the first period and eight in the second. Spokane has scored one goal in the last three games.
“It’d be nice to get our No. 1 center back,” Nachbaur said. “We’ve suffered since (Calder Brooks has) been out. We’d like to get him back, but by the same token it’s an opportunity for guys to play more minutes. Some guys aren’t ready to move up the ladder quite yet.”
Since Nov. 21, the Chiefs have had two five-game losing streaks, a five-game winning streak and a seven-game winning streak. Spokane has lost eight of 10 in January, a far cry from the 10-2 pasting it put on Tri-City and Sarthou on New Year’s Eve.
Injuries are part of the problem. The Chiefs were already struggling through upper-body injuries to defensemen Evan Fiala (day-to-day) and Jordan Henderson (3-5 weeks), and forwards Blair Oneschuk (indefinite), Brooks (week-to-week) and Hudson Elynuik (indefinite). Defenseman Matt Sozanski may have joined the list when he left in the first period with an apparent shoulder injury.
“I haven’t heard what the prognosis is yet, but when a player doesn’t come back for the rest of the game it’s not good,” Nachbaur said.
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