Americans head to Portland in search of first win

September 23, 2013 

Starting the season 0-2 is nothing new for the Tri-City Americans. In fact, it has happened eight times, and six times they have gone on to make the playoffs. So there’s no need to panic.

The Americans were 0-2 at the start of last season, then went on to win 40 games to tie a league record with Kamloops and Regina for posting seven consecutive 40-win seasons.

Today, the Americans will wipe the slate clean and hop on the bus to take on the reigning Western Conference champion Portland Winterhawks at the Moda Center (formerly the Rose Garden).

“We’ve got to win one. There’s no better place, I can tell you that,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “It’s a tough task, but we’ve done it before. That’s the goal.”

Portland is 1-0-0-1 to start the season, with a win over Prince George and a shootout loss to Seattle.

The Winterhawks return a solid core of players from last year’s team, including reigning scoring champion Nic Petan (120 points), Chase De Leo, Taylor Leier and Oliver Bjorkstrand, who leads the the league in scoring with six points after the opening weekend.

Portland scored 12 goals in its first two games, while the Americans gave up eight in two games — including four power-play goals.

“We were better in front of our net (Sunday),” Hiller said. “The penalty killers did a good job. Sometimes there are no easy answers, you just have to dig in and keep working at it. There aren’t any magic solutions, it’s a matter of sticking with it and getting it done. And you have to believe in yourself.”

And that starts with the veterans.

“There is a big challenge there. We can’t expect our young guys to lead,” Hiller said. “The older guys have to pull us out of this.”

Notes: The Americans had three players named to the NHL Central Scouting Preliminary North American ‘Ones to Watch’ list for the 2014 NHL draft. Justin Gutierrez, Justin Marreck and Taylor Vickerman were on the “C” list for skaters. Portland’s De Leo was the only Western Conference player on the “A” list. ... Swift Current defenseman Julius Honka was named WHL player of the week after scoring one goal with four assists in two games. He also had a plus-4 rating as the Broncos won both games.

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