Patrick Dea was a goalie without a team. Jake Bean was hoping for a trade that would send him to a contender.
The Tri-City Americans fulfilled both wishes, and have not regretted their choices.
"They have been fantastic," Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. "Patrick was a little bit of an unknown to us playing in the (Eastern) conference. He had a high pedigree when he was younger and had experience in Edmonton, but he needed a change of scenery and took advantage of an opportunity. We really liked our team from the onset, but felt we really needed to add a little to our D corp to get our team to another level. Jake was that guy. It's a good chance for him to be part of a contending team."
The Americans, who were a playoff wild-card team, swept Kelowna and Victoria in their first two series, and will take on the U.S. Division champion Everett Silvertips for the Western Conference title. Game 1 is set for 7:35 p.m. Friday in Everett.
Dea and Bean were instrumental in both series, and their play was recognized by the Western Hockey League.
Dea, 21, was the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Week for the first two games against Victoria, while Bean, 19, was the WHL and CHL Player of the Week after handing out eight assists in two games as the Americans finished off the Royals last week.
"When teams win, individuals get recognized for it," Williamson said. "Patrick is a huge part of what we have done so far. Jake has stepped in and continued to elevate his game, and his leadership has helped our group in a lot of different ways."
The road to the Tri-Cities
Tri-City general manager Bob Tory knew he had good core players in place with Michael Rasmussen, Morgan Geekie, Jordan Topping, Dylan Coghlan and Juuso Välimäki, but he needed that little something extra. He got it with Bean.
To get a quality player, you have to pay. In exchange for Bean, the Americans sent forward Carson Focht, defenseman Dakota Krebs and three draft picks — including a first-round pick in 2019 — to Calgary.
"In the WHL, when the trade deadline comes around, players get traded to contenders, which was good for me," Bean said. "I was happy when I heard I was coming here. You always want to succeed in the position you are in. Patty's and my success is a result of the team's success."
Bean, a first-round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016, helped Team Canada win gold at the World Junior Championship in January.
He was a teammate of Everett goalie Carter Hart with Team Canada at the WJC, and is excited for the team to test its luck against the hottest goalie in the league.
"They are deeper than the teams we played before," Bean said. "We did sweep those series, but they both had world-class players. In no way was it a cakewalk. We need to make sure all of our elements are in place."
Dea was picked up in the offseason off the waiver wire after three years with the Edmonton Oil Kings. He was a free addition.
"It looked liked l was going to be playing Junior A," Dea said of his options during the summer. "Tri-City called late. Bob and Mike gave me a chance and I have worked hard for everything I've got."
Though Dea had just 14 minutes of postseason hockey to his credit before earning the starting job in the playoffs this season, he is no stranger to big games.
"When I was 16, I got be be around the (Edmonton) team that went to the Memorial Cup," Dea said. "I learned a lot from Tristan Jarry."
When all the pieces come together
While Dea has been through the good and the bad this season, Bean joined the team in January in the midst of a rash of injuries, and has done his part to help fill the void on the back end.
Now that everyone is healthy, the Americans have been downright dangerous.
"I think we have felt good about our team from the start of the year," Williamson said. "We are in a tough division and we had some injuries. You had to be at your best and it made us a better hockey team. It's nice to have a healthier group than what we have had. We are facing a very good hockey team that has had a good year and we are excited for the opportunity to play them."
The Americans have outscored opponents 46-22 in eight games, led by Geekie with 15 goals. Geekie and Rasmussen lead the team with 24 points each. They Americans have trailed their opponents for just 27 minutes and 10 seconds over eight games.
Dea has been solid in net with a 2.77 goals against average, two shutouts and seven wins.
"Getting to play behind Juuso, Cogs and Bean, it's been a collective effort on the back end," Dea said. "I think we all know what we were capable of doing. I have a lot of high praise for Carter (1.92 GAA in the playoffs), but we just have to focus on being patient. We will get our chances. We commit to team defense and we will be OK."
Everett won five of the eight regular-season games between the teams, but the teams only met once when Välimäki, Rasmussen and Bean were in the lineup together. Tri-City won that game 4-2.
You could flip a coin on this series. Everett has proven itself since the start of the season, whereas the Americans leave you wondering if they are for real. Time will tell.