Over the years, Tri-City Americans have had mixed emotions about the annual Teddy Bear Toss game.
“We are more concerned with the win,” Tri-City veteran defenseman Drdyn Dow said. “But it would be nice to have that goal. I’ve always been a big fan of the Teddy Bear game, when that first goal comes and all the bears come over.”
The Seattle Thunderbirds (14-13-1-0, 29 points) are at Toyota Center tonight, making their first appearance this season. Seattle hasn’t won in Kennewick since Jan. 27, 2008, a span of 22 games, but Dow said the Thunderbirds, who beat the Americans (17-10-1-1, 36 points) 3-1 on Oct. 26 in Kent, are a better team than they have been over the last couple of years.
“Seattle is a big team, and they will be a test,” Dow said. “They are a different team from what we have seen in the past. They are coming off big wins over Kamloops and Kelowna. They will come in with some energy, and we have to match that.”
Over the last 11 years, the Americans are 10-0-0-0 with one tie on Teddy Bear Toss night.
More than 25,500 stuffed animals have found their way into the arms of children over the last 10 years, including 2,537 last season when Jordan Messier scored at 11:58 of the first period against the Everett Silvertips.
“It’s a great night,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “Everyone is so excited about that first goal. Everyone wants to get it, and the fans are all waiting for it.”
Festivities aside, the Americans come into tonight having lost three of their last four games, ending the slide with a 4-3 win over Vancouver last Saturday. They suffered three consecutive road losses, starting with Spokane and adding Kelowna and Kamloops before ending up in Vancouver.
“The one thing through the losses on the road, is we played quite well,” Hiller said. “We were tied late in the third in all three. You know when you take a licking, and we got one in Portland. When you play well and lose, you don’t overreact. You have to be resilient.”
The Americans scored just two goals in each loss before scoring four against Vancouver. They are averaging 3.1 goals per game, while allowing 2.6.
“We don’t score a lot, and the margin for error becomes more fine,” Hiller said.
Justin Feser leads Tri-City with 17 goals and 35 points, while Malte Strömwall has 20 points and Connor Rankin 16. On the road trip, rookies Beau McCue and Parker Bowles stepped up. McCue leads the rookies with seven goals and 14 points.
“People are continuing to get better,” Hiller said. “It’s a different hero each night.”
Notes: Former defenseman Clayton Stoner is the only player in the last 11 years to score the Teddy Bear goal twice (2003 and 2004) and Jordan Cameron has the fastest goal scored at 37 seconds in 2001. ... Seattle F Tyler Alos, 19, retired from hockey Monday because of concussion problems. Alos, from Spokane, played 201 career games with the Thunderbirds, scoring 19 goals with 37 assists. ... Prince George Cougars F Brock Hirsche, 20, retired Wednesday, a day after having surgery on his left shoulder for a torn labrum. He has had two previous surgeries on each shoulder. In 161 career games with the Cougars, Hirsche, a native of Lethbridge, Alberta, had 26 goals and 35 assists.w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; firstname.lastname@example.org