Frosty the Snowman came to life after a group of children place an old silk, yet magical, hat upon his head.
The Tri-City Americans will need a little magic of their own to jump start their season after the holidays, or their postseason dreams just might melt away.
The Americans finished the first half of the season strong, winning three games in a row against the Central Division, but it was a woeful 2-4-1-0 performance during a seven-game homestand that sent them spiraling down the standings. A day with Clark Griswold and his dysfunctional family would have been more enjoyable.
Having played just 31 games in the first half of their 72-game season, the Americans have games in hand, but they only become valuable if you turn them into points.
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In keeping with the holiday tradition, here is how the Americans grade out after 31 games, in which they have an 18-10-3-0 record record with 39 points. They had 41 points at the Christmas break last season, but that was through 37 games.
Despite a wealth of talent up front, the Americans rank in the middle of the 22-team league in goals scored with 112, and have just three players with 30 or more points. The Americans need to put some new batteries in the high-end toys and turn them loose.
Tri-City is just five points back of division leader Everett, four points behind second-place Portland. The second half of the season starts Wednesday on the road against the Winterhawks.
Mike Williamson: The Americans have run hot and cold this season, and he has taken responsibility for meltdowns. Missing key players because of injury or playing for their country on select teams has taken its toll, but every team in the league has suffered the same fate. A visit home always seems to recharge the players. One can only hope they come back as Turbo Man. Grade: B
Patrick Dea: Sharing the net has been working well for the Americans. A 3.19 goals against average and a .915 save percentage keep him employed, as do two shutouts. Too many games have slipped away after having a comfortable lead, and while everyone absorbs their share of responsibility for such collapses, they need to shore up the crease. Grade: B
Beck Warm: Through 17 games, he has a 3.31 GAA and a .890 save percentage. He is 10-5-0-0 with one shutout, and at one time, won six consecutive starts. The Americans have given up the fourth fewest goals in the league (112), but they also have played in the fewest games. Grade: B
Liam Belcourt: An upper-body injury has kept his action on the ice to just two games. Grade: Incomplete
Anthony Bishop: In his third full season in the league, and fourth team in that time frame, he still has work to do. Taking care of the puck is tops on the list. He has five assists to his credit, but on the back end needs to add a bit of grit to his game. Grade: C+
Mitchell Brown: The rookie has shown flashes of things to come, but with injuries and players gone to the World Junior Championship, he needs to take a step forward and use his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame to his advantage. Grade: B-
Dylan Coghlan: Consistent and confident, with a dash of scoring thrown in for good measure. The NHL expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights saw something in him at their camp, rolled the dice and signed him as a free agent. He has not given them reason to fold. He has 10 goals and 17 assists to his credit and is on target for his best season yet. Grade: A
Daniel Gatenby: Spent time with Kelowna and Kamloops before landing with the Americans, who hoped his veteran leadership would come into play. An upper-body injury limited him to 16 games with two assists. Here’s hoping for more in the second half of the season. Grade: Incomplete
Roman Kalinichenko: It generally takes European players a while to acclimate to the WHL style of play, but he has come in and made a name for himself. In 30 games he has one goal and six assists. He is dependable on the back end and has a bit of a nasty streak. Nothing but good things ahead. Grade: B+
Dakota Krebs: He’s a veteran, a leader and he knows his job, but he seems to lose focus at times. He already has doubled his point total from last year with eight assists — which is an upside — but still is looking for his first goal this season. Grade: B
Juuso Välimäki: When he’s in the lineup, there is little cause for concern. He missed time while at the Calgary Flames camp, five games with an injury, and now he’s with Team Finland at the WJC, where he is team captain. In 19 games, he has 5 goals, 15 assists and a plus-6 rating. Very good with the puck and skates well. Grade: A
Parker AuCoin: Heart, soul and grit. He played for nearly a month with a broken bone in his foot until the pain was too much to handle. He’s tenacious on the penalty kill and works hard in the corners. He returned to the ice just before the holiday break. To say he was missed would be an understatement. In 20 games, he has six goals and five assists. Grade: A
Paycen Bjorklund: Injuries have limited the skilled winger to 11 games. A healthy second half would be a nice gift for him and the team. Grade: Incomplete
Connor Bouchard: The rookie has been entrusted with many tasks this season, including the penalty kill. Nothing but good things on the horizon. Grade: B+
Brett Clayton: The veteran, who came from Portland, hasn’t done much to make a splash since arriving in the Tri-Cities. Needs to up his game in the second half as the team tries to climb in the U.S. Division standings. Grade: C
Carson Focht: His improvement from last season is noticeable. He already has doubled his points from his rookie year and shows promise on the power play (3 goals). Has floated between lines and fits in wherever he is placed. Grade: B
Morgan Geekie: The team’s returning leading scorer, and this season’s leading scorer (14 goals, 26 assists) at the moment. The Americans need him to be more consistent. He’s had two five-game stretches with no goals. Grade: A-
Max James: High hopes for the big fella have fallen flat. A four-game suspension didn’t help matters, and playing cautious as to not re-offend takes the shine off his game. A team player, but he needs to find his game. Grade: B-
Isaac Johnson: A great addition to the lineup. His upside is good. With the honeymoon phase ending, look for good things to come in the second half. Grade: B+
Sasha Mutala: A lot was expected of the high-scoring forward coming out of bantams, but the young man still is adjusting to the WHL way of life. Shows flashes of things to come. Hoping the second half brings out his natural ability. Grade: B-
Kyle Olson: Not sure if the Grinch stole his game on the way to Whoville, but something is missing. He has played all but two games and has but three goals and 10 assists. At this point, he’s on track to score about half of what he did last year (57 points). If the Americans are going to make a run in the second half, they need him to step up his game. Grade: B-
Michael Rasmussen: Team Canada’s loss is the Americans’ gain. After not receiving an invite to the WJC camp, he, like goalie Carey Price years ago, has taken his frustrations out on opposing teams. In the past six games, he has scored seven goals with five assists. He has nine power-play goals and three game-winning goals to his credit. In 22 games, he has 16 goals (on 58 shots) and 15 assists. There are many more good things to come. Grade: A
Riley Sawchuck: A third-fourth line guy who does his job. I’m sure he’d like more goals (he has three) — who wouldn’t. Grade: B
Jordan Topping: He and Rasmussen led the team with 16 goals each, but he had a lull of nine consecutive game where he did not score a goal, and had just three assists. Consistency from the veterans is crucial if they want to extend their season past March. That being said, his play has great value without the puck. Grade: A
Nolan Yaremko: No one outworks him. He has the heart of a warrior — he is Rudy, Hoosiers and the Mighty Ducks all rolled into one. He has nine goals and 12 assists in 30 games, and is a key component on the penalty kill. But the team relies on him for so much more. Maybe, just like Samson, his hair is his source of strength. Grade: A