HOCKEY: Hamonic, Ams head to Seattle

Tri-City HeraldDecember 17, 2012 

Justin Hamonic doesn’t think twice about blocking a puck.

If you do it right, it doesn’t hurt (so he says), and you are able to give your goalie a fighting chance.

Hamonic blocked about a dozen shots Saturday — three in the last minute of the game — as the Tri-City Americans handed the Spokane Chiefs a 2-1 loss.

“Every block helps out Coms (goalie Eric Comrie),” Hamonic said.” I had a ton of blocks and I felt good out there. It was one of my better games. I just do what I can to help us win.”

Which is all coach Jim Hiller can ask.

“You need big games from a number of people in that building (Spokane Arena), and he was physical and he had an important impact on the game,” Hiller said. “He has been a rock-solid kid back there. We saw him emerge the second half last season. We ask more and more from him, and he keeps delivering.”

The second-year defenseman from Winnipeg, Manitoba, has been having a solid first half to the season that ends tonight with a road game against the Seattle Thunderbirds (16-16-1-1, 34 points).

With a win, the Americans (19-12-1-2, 41 points) can head into the holiday break with 20 wins for the fifth time in six years.

“That’s what we are looking for. To get the 20th win before Christmas would be a nice close to the first half of the season,” Hiller said. “It will be good for everyone to step away for a few days and get recharged for the second half.”

Hamonic, 18, has played every game this season after playing just 39 regular-season games last year.

He has one goal, three assists and 17 penalty minutes in 34 games, skating on one of the top two pairings with Mitch Topping.

“Coming in last year, I knew I wouldn’t play a lot,” Hamonic said.” I played more toward the end. If you don’t get ice time, you still learn. I am an example of many. I’ve improved a lot since last year. I can help the team out a lot more than I could last year at this time.”

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Hamonic put in the time over the summer to become a better player. He won the veterans fitness award and has kept moving forward in a positive direction.

“Winning that showed I could be a prominent part of the team,” Hamonic said. “I knew if I could get ice time, I could play a key role and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do that.”

Hamonic has thrived alongside Topping, 19, who leads the Tri-City defensemen with five goals.

“We are opposite,” Hamonic said. “Tops is more offensive and like to rush the play. I like the defensive part. I like to do the dirty work. We complement each other.”

Notes: Thunderbirds left wing Roberts Lipsbergs joined Team Latvia for the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. Lipsbergs is tied for the team lead in scoring with 32 points on 17 goals and 15 assists. ... Saskatoon forward Josh Nicholls was named WHL Player of the Week after collecting eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) in helping the Blades to a 4-0-0-0 record.

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