Exhilarating. In a word, that’s how Tri-City Americans defenseman Parker Wotherspoon describes the annual New Year’s Eve game against the Spokane Chiefs.
Now in it’s 26th year, exhilarating is as good a word as any. There have been close games, blowouts, one tie and a six-game win streak by the Americans that ran from 1991-96.
“We want get back at them for last year,” Wotherspoon said of the 10-2 loss at the hands of the Chiefs. “It should be sold out. I’m excited. This will be my second one. We want to start winning our games. We don’t like losing. I think we are on the upswing.”
The Americans have earned three of four points in their first two games back since the WHL’s Christmas break, losing in overtime to Portland, then beating the Winterhawks in regulation Tuesday night.
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“We are a lot more positive in the room,” Wotherspoon said. “It’s just a better surrounding.”
Rookie forward Michael Rasmussen said he is looking forward to his first New Year’s Eve bash.
“I know it’s awesome for the fans, and I hear they are loud,” Rasmussen said. “I’m excited. I hope we can play like we did last night. That gives us confidence. We need to put a couple of wins together.”
The Americans (15-19-2-0, 32 points) are 15-8-0-1 with one tie over the past 25 years ringing in the new year against the Chiefs. Spokane (18-14-3-1, 40 points) has won the past two.
“Any time there is a night that traditionally has a lot of fans and extra energy in the building, whether it be Teddy Bear Toss night, New Year’s Eve or the playoffs, it adds a little bit of buzz and excitement and gives the guys a little bit more energy,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. “You want to play well for your fans and have a good start.”
With Tuesday’s convincing 5-1 win over Portland, Williamson sees good things on the horizon for his team.
“Our guys have come back with the energy we’d hoped, and refreshed,” he said. “We wanted to take some of the momentum from the games at the end of the first half into this part of the schedule, and they’ve done that. Yesterday, just the atmosphere in the room, leading up to warmups and leading up to the game, probably was the best it had been all year, and it carried over onto the ice. That’s what we want.”
Tuesday also marked the debut of Mackenze Stewart, whose rights were acquired over the weekend.
“I thought he played well,” Williamson said. “He hasn’t played a lot of hockey this year — he’s been in and out of the lineup quite a bit. He added a physical presence. He’s learning a new position and is adapting to playing wing after playing D most of his career. There will be an adjustment. He moved his feet well and has good speed. He’s a big body and is willing to finish checks. He has a big shot, and he is going to continue to improve and make the guys around him better.”
World Junior Championship
Tri-City defenseman Brandon Carlo was one of 11 players contributing points as the United States beat Switzerland 10-1 in the preliminary round in Helsinki, Finland.
Team USA had a 6-0 lead after the opening period with goals from six different players, including Carlo, who beat Swiss goalie Joren Van Pottelberghe glove-side with a wrist shot from the point to give the United States a 3-0 lead at 10:13. Carlo also finished with a plus-4 rating.
Auston Matthews led Team USA with two goals and two assists, while Matthew Tkachuk had two goals and one assist.
Team USA secured a spot in the tournament quarterfinals, which will begin Saturday. They will finish preliminary-round play today against Denmark (NHL Network, 6 a.m.).
The Tri-City Americans New Year’s Eve games
2014 — lost to Spokane 10-2 (attendance 6,025)
2013 — lost to Spokane 4-2 (6,019)
2012 — beat Spokane 6-3 (6,098, record)
2011 — beat Spokane 4-1 (6,034)
2010 — lost to Spokane 5-1 (5,691, rescheduled for Feb. 21)
2009 — beat Spokane 5-2 (5,963)
2008 — beat Spokane 6-1 (6042)
2007 — beat Spokane 4-1 (5,963)
2006 — lost to Spokane 4-3, SO (5,917)
2005 — beat Spokane 6-3 (5,737)
2004 — lost to Spokane 3-1 (5,768)
2003 — 4-4 tie (5,757)
2002 — beat Spokane 8-1 (4,972)
2001 — lost to Spokane 6-2 (5,190)
2000 — lost to Spokane 6-4 (5,462)
1999 — beat Spokane 6-5, OT (5,058)
1998 — beat Spokane 5-3 (6,000)
1997 — lost to Spokane 5-3 (5,943)
1996 — beat Spokane 3-2 (5,842)
1995 — beat Spokane 5-1 (5,960)
1994 — beat Spokane 3-2 (OT) (5,917)
1993 — beat Spokane 6-2 (5,560)
1992 — beat Spokane 8-2 (5,502)
1991 — beat Spokane 9-6 (6,010)
1990 — lost to Spokane 6-5 (attendance 6,010)
1989 — won 8-4 in Portland
Tri-City leads the series with Spokane 15-8-0-1 with 1 tie