Hockey: Americans' coach Hiller finds a high-scoring new line

November 8, 2012 

— There are times when Malte Strömwall looks like the best player on the ice. Then, there are times you wonder where he is.

Last weekend, Strömwall showed his true colors, scoring one goal with four assists as the Tri-City Americans swept a three-game weekend at home against Everett, Red Deer and Vancouver.

“He’s a much better player this year than he was last year,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller of the second year Swedish forward. “He’s physically stronger and more mature. For him, its a matter of consistency. That’s the issue we have to work on with him.”

Hiller may have struck gold with the combination of Strömwall, Justin Feser and Brian Williams. In the three games, they combined for 11 goals and eight assists.

“All three of them are dynamic offensive players,” Hiller said. “Together, there is a lot of speed and tenacity.They are pretty hard to contain. Malte spent some time on the fourth line last weekend for a few shifts. Then he came back and he was stronger. We have high expectations of him. He’s a great offensive player, but it comes down to consistency. I’m not done with him yet.”

Hiller looks to get production out the line once again, as the Americans (12-6-1-1, 26 points) host Everett (6-13-0-2, 14) tonight and Western Conference leading Kamloops (17-2-0-1, 35) on Saturday.

“That line is playing really well together,” Hiller said. “When they are on, they are pretty hard to stop. They are really starting to hit their stride together.” And Strömwall believes he has found his comfort zone with his linemates.

“I play with Feser now and Brian,” Strömwall said. “They are super skilled players. I’m skilled with the puck and know what to do. They can score goals, too. It has been working out well for us. Last year was a learning year, but this year I have to produce points. We’ve played well so far, but I know we can do better.”

The Americans will have to be at the top of their game against the Blazers, who have lost just two games in regulation this season.

“They are really good. We watched them this afternoon a little bit,” Hiller said. “They have a strong team. They are offensive up front with four guys who are really dynamic. We know what that’s all about. The challenge for us is keeping the puck deep in their zone.”

Strömwall said the Americans are up for the challenge.

“It should be a good one,” he said. “They have a great team, but so do we. It will be a hard battle. We have to shut down their top line, they are very good.”

Strömwall, who is second in team scoring with 13 points, missed six games earlier this year with a hip injury, but he has made up for lost time.

“Having to sit out is terrible,” he said. “It’s the worst thing you can do. You’d rather be out there playing with the boys.”

Sitting out six games was nothing compared to sitting home for a couple of extra weeks because of visa issues.

“My agent ordered the wrong visa,” said Strömwall, who missed training camp. “He ordered one for six months instead of a year. It was really frustrating. My friends back home had started the season and I had nothing to do.”

With time on his hands, he contined to workout, which has paid dividends this season.

“I worked hard this summer, gained some weight and got stronger,” Strömwall said. “I pushed myself hard.”

Notes

Everett signed 2011 WHL draft pick Kyle Raymond, 16. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Raymond has taken a short leave from his KIJHL team this week to join the Silvertips for tonight’s road game against the Americans. Forward Brandon Bruce left the Silvertips and re-joined the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials after playing four games. ... Tri-City is 5-0 against Everett this season. ... The Blazers will be without F Tim Bozon tonight when they play at Spokane. Bozon was suspended for one game by the WHL for an altercation following the final buzzer Wednesday against Edmonton. ... Kamloops F Dylan Willick, 20, likely won’t play again until after Christmas because of a broken right ankle.

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