The past few years, the Tri-City Americans have been nearly unbeatable on home ice. This season, that is not the case.
The Americans, who play at Everett tonight and at Seattle on Saturday, are 16-9-1-0 on the road and 13-10-0-2 at Toyota Center.
Tri-City coach Jim Hiller has no answer for the turnaround.
This late in the season, its really hard for me to believe, said Hiller, whose team is 5-1-0-1 against the Silvertips this season. Im disappointed with our home record, but at the same time pleased with our road record. It should be easier at home. We want and we need to win more at home, but Ill take the wins we have on the road.
The Americans (29-19-1-2, 61 points) trail fourth-place Spokane by one point in the Western Conference standings, while the Silvertips (21-28-1-2, 45 points) are in seventh place, just three points ahead of Seattle.
Its a little ways off to start counting points and looking at standings, Hiller said. We are closing in on Spokane, but Victoria (58 points) is closing in on us. It will be tight the rest of the way.
Tri-Citys home woes are uncharacteristic. The last time the Americans had a better record on the road than at home was the 1997-98 season, where they went 10-23-2 on the road and 7-21-4 at home.
The last five years, they have averaged 28 wins on home ice. This year, they would have to win their remaining 11 home games to reach 24.
The Americans good fortunes on the road began in early October with a pair of wins at Everett, then a 5-0-1-0 record on a trip through the East Division, with the lone setback a 3-2 overtime loss to Saskatoon.
In December, the Americans reeled off four consecutive wins on the road before the Christmas break.
Our home record is something we want to improve on, said veteran defenseman Mitch Topping, who is fourth in team scoring with eight goals and 20 assists. We have the best fans in the league and its such a fun building to play in. On the flip side, we come out with the focus we need to have to win on the road. The road effort is a huge positive and it plays in our favor.
Going into tonights game, the Americans have won three in a row on the road, including a 6-1 victory over the Silvertips on Jan. 15.
Topping had a goal and an assist in the win over Everett. In seven games against the Silvertips, he has one goal and four assists.
Everett is a good team and they work hard, Topping said. They dont have as much skill as they have in the past, but it is a tough barn to play in. We have to get pucks to the net early and take their crowd out of it.
The Americans will play short-handed this weekend.
Ryan Chynoweth still is out with a shoulder injury, and Beau McCues ankle still is not ready for action. To make matters worse, Tyson Dallman was suspended for three games for a goaltender interference major on Wednesday when he took down Prince Georges Brett Zarowny in the left face-off circle.
Hiller said they are bringing in two affiliate players to avoid shifting versatile defenseman Drydn Dow to forward.
Defenseman Parker Wotherspoon (Fraser Valley Hawks) and winger Justin Marreck (Okanagan Rockets) will join the Americans for the Everett and Seattle games.
We might have to bring Drydn up, but he so valuable on defense Im not sure we can take him out of there, Hiller said. We still have to figure that out.