For two guys who never played in the Western Hockey League before last Friday, defensemen Brendan O’Reilly, 16, and Jordan Davies, 17, have adjusted quite well.
Called up by the Tri-City Americans right before Christmas, the pair played both games against the Portland Winterhawks last weekend.
“Against Portland, you are going to get tested off the rush and I thought both Jordan and Brendan did a really good job having to jump into that,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “They did a great job and gave us good minutes. I think they are more comfortable with a weekend of games and a practice. I expect even more (today).”
While playing against Portland was a tall order, just getting to the Tri-Cities was a feat all in itself.
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O’Reilly, who was stranded in Salt Lake City because of fog at the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco, was the last to arrive, getting to Toyota Center a couple of hours before last Friday’s game.
“Getting here was really rough,” O’Reilly said. “I got 4 1/2 hours of sleep the night before we played Portland. My 8:30 flight (Friday morning) got canceled and I was waiting around until 3:15.”
Davies was stranded in Denver, but had Tri-City veteran defensemen Justin Hamonic and Jeff Hubic to keep him company.
“It was a whole lot easier having those two guys there,” said Davies, a native of Sherwood Park, Alberta. “We spent our whole day there.”
Both players jumped at the chance to join the Americans for six games.
The help is much appreciated with defensemen Mitch Topping and Wil Tomchuk injured, Michal Plutnar at the World Junior Championship with the Czech Republic, and rookie D-man Parker Wotherspoon at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Nova Scotia.
“I was really excited to get to the next level,” Davies said. “I’d been with Portland since I was 15. It was disappointing when they didn’t keep on their list, but I knew there would be other opportunities. Tri-City is giving me that.”
O’Reilly, from Southlake, Texas, has been playing on the blue line with Hubic, and has learned a lot in a short amount of time.
“The speed of the game is a lot different,” O’Reilly said. “And, if you make one simple error in youth hockey it won’t result in a goal. Here, it definitely will. You have to think a lot quicker. My first game, I tried to play more shutdown defense than try to jump up in the play. I just tried to keep it simple until I get used to it.”