Tri-City Americans goaltender Eric Comrie has returned from NHL camp, and coach Mike Williamson was encouraged by his team’s play over the first two games.
Not a bad way to start the weekend, which includes a home game tonight against the Seattle Thunderbirds and a road trip Saturday to play the Spokane Chiefs.
“I liked the excitement and enthusiasm,” Williamson said. “We didn’t manage that well on opening night. The best part is the way we came together after individual play against Spokane. On Sunday (against Prince George) the shifts were shorter, the effort was there and they were rewarded.”
Comrie, a 2013 second-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets, has spent the past two weeks at rookie camp and main camp with the Jets. He returned to the Tri-Cities on Wednesday night.
“It was a really good time,” Comrie said. “I was fortunate to stay as long as I did. You learn so much playing at that pace. The older guys are so good with you. They know how important it is to mentor the younger guys. They were in our position once.”
Even though he was kept busy with the Jets, Comrie said he took the time to keep in touch with his Tri-City teammates and how they did in the first two games of the season.
“I always follow the team,” Comrie said. “I wanted to be there (Winnipeg) as long as I could, but I’m glad to be back. I checked on the guys and I texted them. They are my best friends and my family. It’s important to stay in touch. It’s good to see that we are 1-1. There is always a little rust at the start of a new season.”
Comrie practiced Thursday, getting his legs going after a long flight.
“I felt good he said. “I tracked the puck well and was able to gauge the speed. It’s just time to play a game now.”
With Comrie’s return, Evan Sarthou remains in the backup role, while Nathan Alalouf, 18, was reassigned to the Richmond Sockeyes of the PIJHL.“We are excited Eric is back,” Williamson said. “He seems in a good frame of mind and is happy to be back.”
Seattle opened the season last Friday with a 4-1 win over the Portland Winterhawks, then followed with a 1-0 loss to the Everett Silvertips. Wednesday, the Thunderbirds traded overage forward Sam McKechnie to the Saskatoon Blades.
Spokane hasn’t played since beating the Americans on opening night. Saturday is the Chiefs’ home opener.
“Our guys who have been here have experienced the rivalry,” said Williamson, who is getting a taste of it for the first time. “There is more excitement and more at stake, and the fans seem to be a little more excited.”
The Americans go into the weekend with the top-ranked power play in the WHL at 37.5 percent (6 of 16), and are in the middle of the pack on the penalty kill (88.9 percent), killing off 8 of 9 opportunities.
“It’s so important that both special teams are working,” Williamson said. “We haven’t worked a ton on the nuts and bolts of the power play — we’ve been working on the effort and puck movement. The biggest emphasis is working to get the puck back in the zone once it goes out. We are having to be strong in the penalty kill. The guys are sacrificing themselves in front of the puck. It’s a good starting point, hopefully they can build confidence on it.”
Carlo shines: Americans defenseman Brandon Carlo had two assists as Team Grier beat team Team Olczyk 6-3 at the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo, N.Y. Team Grier led 3-2 after the second period, then went on a three-goal tear in the third. Jeremy Bracco had two goals for Team Grier, while Vancouver Giant Alec Baer had a goal and an assist.
Notes: Lethbridge’s Tyler Wong was suspended three games for a check to the head major and a game misconduct at Medicine Hat on Sept. 20. ... The Calgary Hitmen traded F Linden Penner, 19, to the Moose Jaw Warriors in exchange for a conditional sixth-round bantam draft pick in 2016.