Ams set for last scheduled trip to Spokane

By Annie Fowler, Tri-City Herald March 9, 2012 

Adam Hughesman has played 333 games during his Western Hockey League career, and other than the Toyota Center, he's played a fair share of those games at Spokane Arena.

Hughesman will play his final regular-season game at Spokane tonight when the Tri-City Americans face off against the U.S. Division rival Chiefs.

"This is it, unless we play them in the playoffs," Hughesman said. "I've been there a few times. We've had some of our biggest wins this year and in my career in that building. That's what makes it exciting to play there."

Hughesman has played 26 games over the course of five seasons at Spokane Arena, scoring nine goals with 12 assists.

"They have had some great teams there," Hughesman said. "One of the great things is they respect us, and we respect them. Any time you can go up there and get a win, it's impressive. We are fighting for a title, and they are going for home ice. I'm sure it will feel like a playoff game."

Nostalgia aside, the Americans are in it for the points tonight.

Tri-City (47-17-1-2) leads the race for the Scotty Munro trophy with the Central Division champion Edmonton Oil Kings (45-15-3-4) with 97 points.

The Americans have a one-point lead over the Portland Winterhawks in the race for the U.S. Division title and a two-point lead over Kamloops for first place in the Western Conference.

"We have been really focused since going into Portland (last Sunday) on getting the job done, whatever it takes," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "It hasn't been picture perfect, but we have gotten it done. That is the same attitude we have going into Spokane.

"We've worked really hard to get into this position. We enjoy the challenge. If you can't deal with the pressure, or look at it what might happen negatively, the team wouldn't be in this position. You have to have the mindset of enjoying the challenge and believing you can succeed."

The Americans have 22 road wins -- the most in the WHL this season -- and are 3-2 at Spokane Arena. It's the most wins at Spokane since 2007-08 when Tri-City went 4-2.

"It's a tough place to play and our record reflects that," said Hiller, whose team is 11-18 at Spokane over the last five years. "But we have a team that is confident and we know what it takes to win there. Once you do, it gives you more confidence."

Spokane (35-22-5-4, 79 points), which is fighting for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with Vancouver, has lost it's last four games at home, including a 5-3 loss to Tri-City on Feb. 11.

"To be honest, a couple of games we deserved to lose," Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. "Others, we could have had better fate. We know the importance of these games, we have six games and (Vancouver) has five, but we play Tri-City twice, Kootenay and Kamloops. We have no easy games. If we are going to make a move, we have to play playoff hockey down the stretch."

Including tonight against the Americans.

"The rivalry speaks for itself," Nachbaur said. "Both sides bring their best every game."

NOTES: The Americans will be short-handed again tonight as Jordan Messier serves the last of a three-game league-imposed suspension. Marcus Messier, Jesse Mychan, Sam Grist and Brian Williams still are on the injured list, leaving the team with 19 healthy players. ... With a win tonight, the Americans would tie the franchise record for road wins in a season with 23, set in 2007-08.

* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574; afowler@tricityherald.com

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