Ams bring out welcome mat for Owsley

By Annie Fowler, Tri-City HeraldMarch 11, 2012 

On any given game night, you can spot Tri-City Americans fans wearing Drew Owsley jerseys among the masses at Toyota Center.

Today, Owsley returns to Toyota Center for the first time since being traded to Prince George last summer -- a victim of the overage rule that limits each Western Hockey League team to three 20-year-old players.

"Obviously I'm excited to come back," said Owsley, who won 76 games in net for the Americans over three years. "I'm a little nervous because of that one line (Brendan Shinnimin, Adam Hughesman and Patrick Holland). It's going to be weird, I don't know how I'm going to deal with it. There are so many good memories in the rink with the team. With all the fans, it should be fun.

"In my opinion, they are the best fans in the league. My heart is still in Tri, and I'm happy they supported me when I was there."

The Americans (48-17-1-2, 99 points) are third in the Western Conference, one point behind U.S. Division rival Portland, and two points head of B.C. Division champion Kamloops. Tri-City, which was idle Saturday, has a game in hand on both teams.

With Edmonton beating Red Deer 7-4 on Saturday, the Oil Kings lead the race for the Scotty Munro trophy for the best regular-season record with 101 points. The Americans also have played one less game than Edmonton.

While the Americans are headed to the playoffs and in line to collected a couple of banners, the Cougars (22-44-0-2, 46 points) are fighting to get into the playoffs. Sitting 10th in the Western Conference, they are four points behind eighth-place Victoria.

"We aren't going to quit. I'm not going to quit," Owsley said. "Mathematically, we still have a chance. We are going to be fighting until the very end."

That's the kind of determination that helped Owsley lead the Americans to the WHL Finals against Calgary two years ago, picking up the Western Conference MVP trophy along the way.

"He had such a great impact on the team in his time here," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said of Owsley. "No one will forget him any time soon. He was a real popular player and a good teammate."

Owsley hopes his contributions to the Americans will keep the Tri-City fans from serenading him with their "You suck" chant that is bestowed on visiting goaltenders.

"I hope they treat me pretty good," Owsley said. "I hope they don't heckle me too much. I'm looking forward to it. The season is winding down and this is a nice way to finish it off."

And, there will be no easy goals for friends.

"I'm hoping they take it easy on me," Owsley said. "They know me and they know my weaknesses, but I know where they shoot too. It goes both ways. Every point is big for both of us. They are in a race for the Scotty and we are fighting for our lives. I'm expecting two hard-fought games."

After winning 33 games during the Americans' run for the WHL title, and 36 last season, Owsley is 21-36-0-1 this season. He has three shutouts, a 3.12 goals against average and a .906 save percentage.

"You have to move on," Owsley said. "I try not to focus on that, just focus on us. It's still in the back of my mind -- what if I was still there -- but I have done a pretty good job of trying to block that out."

Owsley is pleased that Ty Rimmer and Eric Comrie have come in and played well behind his former teammates.

"Both have done really well this year," Owsley said. "They have a system that works well, they split the games. I'm happy for the guys. Hopefully they can have a long playoff run."

Owsley may have left Kennewick, but he still stays in touch with his former Tri-City teammates.

"I send a few texts and emails," Owsley said. "I met some unbelievable people there and I still have some great friends there. I'm looking forward to the nice weather. It snowed here (Thursday). It's above zero, so it's not too bad. By my house, the snow banks are unlike anything I've seen before. The snow sticks around."

Which doesn't do much for his golf game.

"No golfing here yet," Owsley said. "That's the one thing I miss. I don't think my golf game will be what it was when I was in Tri."

Owsley isn't sure what the future holds, but he's put it on the back burner until the season is over.

"I've had a couple of options from pro teams -- mostly East Coast," Owsley said. "They want me to come finish the year with them. I've also talked to quite a few schools. Right now, I'm focusing in the end of the season. I'll figure it out when the time comes."

For now, he'll take the sunshine of the Tri-Cities and a little love from the Americans fans.

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