Ams look to shake off opening-weekend rust

September 27, 2012 

Tri-City Americans coach Jim Hiller had three days to break down two games worth of video. He wasn’t pleased with everything he saw after his team dropped its first two games of the season to Spokane and Portland.

“I think our feeling after watching the videos is confirmed — we didn’t move well enough or compete hard enough,” Hiller said. “You will always have breakdowns, and we will lose games where we compete hard, but those games weren’t two of them.”

Saturday against Spokane, the Americans lost a home opener for the first time in 12 years. Sunday, they lost to Portland, marking the first time since the 2005-06 season that they opened the season with back-to-back losses. The last time Tri-City lost three in a row to open the season was the 1997-98 season.

The Americans (0-2-0-0) will try to turn their fortunes around tonight, hosting the Everett Silvertips (0-1-0-1, 1 point).

Everett is coming off a pair of losses to Prince George, including a 7-6 shootout loss Sunday, when the Silvertips squandered a 6-3 lead in the third period.

Tri-City was 10-2 against Everett last year, including a sweep of the Silvertips in the first round of the playoffs. Everett did not win at Toyota Center last year.

Since Sunday, the Americans said goodbye to overage forward Patrick Holland, who joined the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League. Holland played the first two games before he left.

“Holly had such a great career here,” Hiller said. “We watched him grow as a player. Now, we know this is the team we have. Guys can settle in, and everything becomes more stable with the lines and opportunities on the ice.”

Defenseman Zach Yuen, who was named an alternate captain last week, said the Americans must be better in terms of Xs and Os, and the hating-to-lose mentality.

“We need to change our intensity and our will to win,” Yuen said. “You lose games for a reason. Jim and Dan (Price, assistant coach) point out mistakes, and they show us how to fix them. I think it’s pretty simple. We have a good enough team. We have a young team, and it’s good that this happened early. We are all here to win. We just need to put our best effort.”

The Americans indeed are young, with seven fresh faces, including three forwards, three defensemen and goalie Brenden Fiebelkorn.

Rookie forward Parker Bowles scored his first WHL goal Saturday against Spokane, and rookie defenseman Wil Tomchuk put forth a solid effort against two of the best teams in the Western Conference.

“Without a doubt, this is a massive jump from any league to the WHL,” Hiller said. “It’s encouraging when you see guys show positive signs early and being consistent at this level.”

Whereas the youngsters performed as expected, or better, Hiller expects more from his older players if they are to right the ship before it sinks.

“We didn’t get enough from our veterans,” Hiller said. “These guys have played for years, have competed for years. We need more from them as a group. They know what it takes to win and how hard it is. The bottom line, we have worked, practiced and talked. Seven o’clock (today) is where you make a stand for yourself as a player and collectively as a team.”

Notes: Four WHL teams were listed in this week’s CHL poll. The Edmonton Oil Kings remained second, while Portland dropped from fourth to sixth. Kamloops (No. 8) and Calgary (No. 10) made their first appearances, while Saskatoon was an honorable mention. ... Portland’s Nic Petan was named WHL Player of the Week after scoring four goals with four assists in three games. ... Medicine Hat’s Kale Kessy received a 12-game suspension from the league for a checking-to-the-head major and a game misconduct Saturday against Lethbridge. Kessy also was suspended three times for a total of 10 games last year. ... The Vancouver Giants acquired overage forward Trevor Cheek from the Calgary Hitmen for a fourth-round bantam pick in 2013 and a fifth-round pick in 2014.

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

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