The Americans welcome U.S. Division rival Spokane tonight for the eighth meeting of their 12-game schedule against each other. Tri-City leads the season series 4-3, including all three wins at home.
The Ams are coming off a 6-2 home win over Chilliwack on Friday to improve to 22-3-0-2 at Toyota Center. Justin Feser had a hat trick — the third of his career — in the win.
The Chiefs had to rally to beat Kelowna on the road Friday. Spokane is an impressive 16-10-2-2 on the road, but they have no wins in Kennewick this year. Mac Engle was in goal against the Rockets, with James Reid on the bench. Tonight, Engel gets the start — his 12 in a row since Reid suffered a hip injury Jan. 23 at Portland. Reid is the backup and is taking shots in warmups.
Here’s how the U.S. Division shakes out before the game. Portland is on top with 79 points, Spokane has 78 points and Tri-City 76 points. To add a little drama to the race for the U.S. Division title, the Ams have three games in hand on Spokane and two on Portland.
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The Ams play the Chiefs three times this week — tonight, Monday and a week from today in Spokane. They will be spending more time together this week than most married couples.
When you start to look at playoff scenarios, the Western Conference is a zoo. Vancouver and Kelowna keep flip-flopping between first and second, with Prince George third and six points back of the second-place Rockets.
If the playoffs were to start today, Portland would play Kamloops, Vancouver would get Everett, Spokane would play Prince George and Tri-City would play Kelowna. For Portland, Spokane and Tri-City, finishing second in the U.S. Division at this point would mean some serious travel to PG. But, if something is worth having, it’s worth fighting for, whether it be 6 hours on the bus or 14. Personally, I’d rather shorten the trip and go to Kelowna or Kamloops.
For those reading at home, the Chiefs are starting top D-man Jared Cowen at left wing. They have done this for a couple of games now. From what I'm told, this roster move lasts couple of shifts, then he's back on the blue line. Leave it to Don Nachbaur to mess with people's minds.
Chris Driedger is back in goal for the Ams. He is 2-0-0-1 since Drew Owsley went down with a knee injury. Big Mess is out with a bum shoulder tonight, and Neal Prokop still isn't 100 percent. Also, Dylan Fluter, who was called up last night, will be in the stands.
There are quite a few of the Americans players' parents here this weekend, including the Fesers, Wilgoshes, Yuens and Sohors. I'm sure there are more, but that's who I've seen.
Sammy Megna, the Ams water and puck boy, finished his hockey season 20-0 in league play. Sammy, who is a goalie, is the hardest worker I have ever seen. I think the crates of water weigh more than he does, but he lugs them around and gets the job done. Right now, he's picking up the practice pucks at a a rapid pace. If only all kids were this driven.
Tyler Schmidt is 3 penalty minutes shy of 600 for his career. Playing Spokane, I'm sure he will surpass that tonight. Schmitty also needs just one to set a new season high. He has 41 going into the game.
The Chiefs lead the all series between the two teams at 135-118-1-5 with 13 ties.
Puck drops soon. Back after the first.
Spokane leads 1-0 with a goal by Blake Gal. The game it really tight — the shots are 8-7 in favor of Tri-City.
A guy named Kevin on the ice is shooting the puck through a tiny, tiny hole barely big enough for the puck to fit through for $10,000. He was WAY off the mark.
But, he's getting 4 more shots — this time shooting against former Ams and Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig. Olie has been working with Ows and Driedger – let's see if he still has it. Kevin feels this isn't fair (too bad, enjoy the opportunity). Nice to see Olie in goalie gear again — and he's wearing the Ams retro yellow and black. Kevin missed all of his shots, but he said he didn't care — he was shooting against Olie Kolzig. Olie said it was a good thing Kevin didn't have much on his shot since he forgot to put his cup on.
I'm sure this was more entertaining to watch, but I'm all you've got.
The Chiefs turned a 5-minute power play into a 4-1 lead, then added another goal later in the period to a close game wide open. It's not very pretty out there. But, there's 20 minutes left to try an salvage a good game.
Guess 20 minutes wasn't enough. Chiefs win 6-2.