Ams face key roadblocks at Kamloops, Kelowna

By Annie Fowler, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 9, 2013 

At 12-8-1-0, the Tri-City Americans have one of the best road records in the Western Hockey League.

Tonight and Friday, they will have to put on their best road warrior game faces as they take on B.C. Division leaders Kamloops and Kelowna.

"Without a doubt, it will be a great challenge," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team is at Kamloops tonight. "We know them well. They are two teams you have to beat if you want to go where we want to."

The Americans (22-15-1-2, 47 points), third in the U.S. Division behind Portland and Spokane, are fifth in the Western Conference, where Kamloops (28-10-2-2, 60 points) and Kelowna (29-10-1-1, 60 points) are tied for second behind Portland (69 points).

Tri-City is coming off a road split with the Victoria Royals last weekend.

"I was disappointed with our game Saturday in Victoria," Hiller said of the 5-2 loss. "We have a chance to redeem ourselves this week."

The Americans spent Sunday in Victoria, taking part in a team pitching and putting tournament at Cordova Bay Golf Course and exploring the town.

"The guys got a chance to walk around Victoria and do some things as a team," Hiller said. "It was good for them to be able to do that."

The Americans arrived in Kelowna on Monday and practiced Tuesday, with newly signed forward Matthew Gelinas, 17, and prospect Justin Marreck, a Kelowna native.

"They both were impressive in practice today," said Hiller, who noted Gelinas will play today and Friday.

The Americans signed Gelinas to a standard WHL player's contract Monday. Gelinas, a 6-foot-3 205-pound left wing from Calgary, Alberta, is playing his second season with the Calgary Royals of the Alberta Midget Hockey League. Through 24 games, Gelinas leads the Royals in both goals scored (18) and points (30).

The Blazers are 16-2-1-1 on home ice, including a 3-2 win over the Americans on Nov. 30.

Kamloops will play without second-leading scorer JC Lipon tonight. Lipon, who was on Canada's World Junior Team, is spending a few days at home in Regina, Saskatchewan, and will meet the Blazers in Prince George this weekend. Lipon has 22 goals and 57 points in 34 games.

Kelowna is 16-2-0-0 at Prospera Place, but unlike Kamloops, which has a couple of losses in the midst of win streaks, the Rockets have won 15 in a row at home -- three shy of the club record.

The Rocket, who host the Victoria Royals tonight, have won six in a row and 12 of their last 13 games.

"You always want to be the team to end that," Hiller said of the Rockets' streak. "We played well the last time we were there. We lost by a goal."

The Americans will play without forward Tyson Dallman this week after he was injured in Victoria last Friday.

Notes: The Everett Silvertips parted ways with coach Mark Ferner and assistant coach Chris Hartsburg. General Manager Garry Davidson will take over as head coach on an interim basis, with Mitch Love continuing in his role as assistant coach. The Silvertips will begin the search for their fifth head coach in franchise history in the offseason. Davidson will serve as interim coach the remainder of the season. ... The Swift Current Broncos acquired forward Jay Merkley, 17, from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for forward Josh Derko, 19, and a third-round pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. ... Kelowna placed overage defenseman Mitchell Chapman on injured reserve for the rest of the season. Chapman (6-3, 225) suffered a high ankle sprain on the first day of the Rockets training camp, and the injury did not heal as expected. ... Prince George forward Daulton Siwak, 19, informed the Cougars on Sunday night that he was leaving the team. Siwak, a right-winger from Olds, Alberta, had nine goals and eight assits in 38 games this season. Siwak follows in the footsteps of forward Alex Forsberg, who didn't return to the team after the Christmas break. Forsberg, 18, is at home in Waldheim, Saskatchewan, awaiting a trade.

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