The Tri-City Americans have two games remaining before they head home for their Christmas break. They play at rival Spokane tonight, and despite the enthusiasm that generally comes with a matchup against the Chiefs, the mood around the Americans’ dressing room was somber Friday afternoon.
The Tri-City players had been tweeting during the day about the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children were shot and killed, along with six adults.
“When you think about what just has happened, you have to think about their families this close to Christmas,” said Americans alternate captain Jesse Mychan. “It’s just a tragedy. I know all the guys (in the dressing room) are disgusted. We were just talking about it. Our hearts go out to their families, for sure. It’s just heartbreaking. Parents drop them off at school and never get to see them again. I can’t even imagine what they are going through.”
It’s during times of tragedy that sports can bring a little normalcy back to people’s lives, and Mychan said he and his teammates can lean on each other.
“You come to the rink, you have a family to talk to and you can open up to each other,” he said. “We know we have each other’s back and we will be by each other’s side.”
The Americans (18-12-1-2, 38 points) need to pull together as a team tonight and Tuesday when they travel to Kent to take on the Seattle Thunderbirds. They are 4-5-0-1 in their last 10 games and are losing ground on U.S. Division-leading Portland (26-5-1-0, 53 points) and second-place Spokane (23-8-1-0, 47 points).
“We are desperate for a win right now,” Mychan said. “We need to pull something together. It will be a big weekend for us. We need these two wins before Christmas.”
Mychan is one of a few veterans in a scoring slump at the moment. Mychan last scored a goal Nov. 24 against Spokane, and he has no points in his last seven games.
Captain Justin Feser has one goal in nine games and Lucas Nickles, who started the season on roll, has one goal in his last 20 games.
On the upside, rookies Beau McCue and Parker Bowles and veteran Connor Rankin have been solid.
“Those guys are picking up the slack for us,” Mychan said. “Good to know we have scoring all around. We just have to bring our best effort every time we play. It’s bound to turn around for us.”
The Chiefs are 4-0-1-0 against the Americans this season, but the games have been close.
“The last couple of games in Spokane we have been right there,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “We just have to get over the hump the last 6-7 minutes. Our young players have been forced to play a lot of minutes and they have played well. But it’s the same old story — you have to score and we just haven’t been scoring enough.”
Notes: Chiefs assistant Coach Jon Klemm will be the acting head coach while Don Nachbaur is serving as an assistant for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. Klemm will be joined on the bench by former Chiefs captain Kevin Sawyer. ... The Chiefs lead the regular-season series with the Americans 147-126-2-5 with 13 ties over 25 years.