AMERICANS: Tri-City top line top notch

Tri-City HeraldFebruary 25, 2013 

Intensity. Physicality. Playmaking.

In their own words, these are the qualities Justin Feser, Jesse Mychan and Malte Strömwall bring to the Tri-City Americans’ top line.

Three totally different styles of play, but when mixed together they have elevated the Americans to a level of play they have been searching for all season.

“I think we have found a chemistry with each other,” Mychan said. “We work together as a unit. We are three different types of players with three different skill sets. We bring it all to the table.”

The success of the top line over the last 19 games has produced 37 goals, 57 assists and a 13-6-0-0 record, including a five-game win streak the Americans (36-22-1-2, 75 points) take into tonight’s game against the visiting Portland Winterhawks (51-9-1-2, 105 points).

“I played with Mychan and Holly (Patrick Holland) last year and we found that chemistry,” Feser said. “I’ve played all season with Malte and I have good chemistry with him. The last 19 games was meant to be. We need that little extra something to click everything together.”

While the combination of the three players makes Tri-City coach Jim Hiller look like a genius, he said it was a matter of biding their time until they felt Mychan was ready for the move.

After suffering a severed Achilles tendon during the playoffs last season, Mychan worked hard to return to the ice. The team sorely needed his size and physical play, which now has returned to top form.

“The important part about that came with Jesse having an up-and-down first half of the season,” Hiller said. “We needed him to play a physical game. When he got back to that, we would give him more opportunities. Jesse was playing quite well, and when Beau (McCue) went down, that was his opportunity. Even if Beau hadn’t have been hurt, we still would have made that decision.

“Feser and Malte, since Christmas, have elevated the level of their game. Now, mix in Jesse — a big body who gets in some big hits — it works. It’s not me, it’s them.”

McCue, who had a good run with Feser and Strömwall, suffered an ankle injury Jan. 13 against Seattle and missed 15 games.

He has two goals in three games since returning, but not enough to dispatch Mychan.

While the top line trio has been on a roll, at the epicenter is Feser, who leads the Americans with 38 goals and 54 assists (92 points).

He had six goals, seven assists and a plus-seven rating in three wins last week and was named WHL Player of the Week for the second time this season.

In the last 19 games, Feser has 16 goals with 27 assists.

“Those numbers, you don’t really think it’s that many points until somebody tells you,” said Feser, a native of Red Deer, Alberta, in his fifth season with the Americans. “You just go out and do the same thing every night. The last little while we have gotten the bounces.”

While Feser is on track to eclipse the 100-point mark this season, tonight he will equal the WHL Iron Man record of 311 consecutive games played held by Winnipeg, Manitoba, native Dwayne Newman (Feb. 2 1988 through March 17, 1992), who played for the Brandon Wheat Kings and Victoria Cougars.

“It’s just another one of those things you don’t notice until you get to that point,” said Feser, who ranks fifth in WHL scoring. “You just kind of chuckle and laugh when you start to realize what you have accomplished.”

While Feser shrugs off the accomplishment, Mychan can’t help but be impressed.”

“That is a pretty amazing feat to accomplish,” said Mychan, who has played 93 career games. “Seems he is five years ahead of me. I listen to what tips he has to offer.”

Being a man of few words, Feser lets his play on the ice do the talking for him, and Strömwall has been right beside him all season, scoring 17 goals with 38 assists. His 55 points are second only to his linemate.

“We have been putting up some goals,” said Strömwall, a second-year player from Luleå, Sweden. “Our line has been working out great. I like playing with those two guys. I liked it when Jesse came up. He runs over guys and scores goals. And Feser, he’s been good all year.”

Strömwall had one goal and six assists over the last three games, but as long as the puck goes in the net, he said he doesn’t care how it gets there.

“I’m fine passing the puck if they score,” Strömwall said. “It doesn’t matter who scores as long as we win.”

At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Mychan’s size complements the skill of Feser and Strömwall, but he’s also seen a vast improvement in his own numbers since the move to the top line.

Over the last 19 games, the native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has 16 goals and nine assists, including his first career hat trick against Vancouver on Jan. 16. In the last three games, he had four goals and four assists.

“Jesse creates a lot of room out there in front of the net,” Feser said. “He takes up a lot of room and frees up space for me and Malte with his playmaking ability.”

For Hiller, the accomplishments of his top line brings back flashes of last season.

“After watching what Shinny (Brendan Shinnimin), Holly (Patrick Holland) and Hughey (Adam Hughesman) did last February, we know what is possible,” Hiller said. “We are seeing similarities with Feser, Malte and Jesse.”

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