Hockey: Tri-City Americans open second half of season Friday

December 26, 2013 

At one point Thursday afternoon, Justin Gutierrez post on Twitter, “the nightmare trip continues.”

The Tri-City Americans forward was returning to Kennewick from Anchorage, Alaska, after the Christmas break, but his flight into Pasco was delayed because of dense fog.

Gutierrez wasn’t the only one stranded at the Seattle airport. Thirteen of his Tri-City teammates were in the same boat.

“It wasn’t snow in Canada, it was fog in Pasco,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, who had three players at Thursday night’s practice. “A good portion of (the players) are on their way on a bus from Seattle. We were able get a bus and driver with the company we use. If not for that, it would have been ugly. We are going to try and practice in the morning, but we still won’t have a full group by then.”

Also stranded by fog were Justin Hamonic, Jeff Hubic and Jordan Davies in Denver, Brendan O’Reilly in Salt Lake City and Rodney Southam in Minneapolis.

Kennewick native Taylor Vickerman had no excuse for missing Thursday night’s practice, he lives just 5 minutes from Toyota Center.

“I was just me and the family,” said Vickerman, who played for the Vancouver Giants last year. “With no travel, it was nice to be home at Christmas for a couple extra days.”

Also making an early appearance was goalie Eric Comrie and defenseman Riley Hillis, who came in from Colorado.

Comrie, from Newport Beach, Calif., had an earlier flight and got in before the fog grounded planes. He was working out in the team’s weight room waiting for the rest of his teammates, but in the end had just one forward and one defenseman to practice with.

“They had a nice little shootaround,” Hiller said of the three players.

The Americans hope to have a full lineup tonight when they host the Portland Winterhawks.

“I don’t think either team will be looking too be pretty (today),” Hiller said. “It will be a ham and egg game. Everyone will be trying to get their legs under them and their hands going. It’s a game you want to win.”

While the Americans are shorthanded because of injuries and tournament commitments, the Winterhawks are no better off.

Nic Petan, Taylor Leier and Derrick Pouliot are playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship in Sweden, and Brendan Leipsic was suspended by the WHL for seven games for a match penalty against the Seattle Thunderbirds on Dec. 14.

He has six games left to serve.

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