Tri-City Americans

Ams ready for another matchup with T-birds

Seattle goalie Calvin Pickard watched helplessly Wednesday night as the puck hit one of his teammates and rolled into the net, giving the Tri-City Americans a 2-1 overtime victory.

"That was a bad bounce," said Pickard, who is the top-ranked goalie in the Central Scouting mid-season report. "It's pretty frustrating when you lose one-goal, overtime and shootout games. We will get a break sometime and get some wins."

Pickard and the Thunder-birds will get another shot at the Americans tonight as the two play each other for the second time in three days. Seattle has not won a game at Toyota Center since Jan. 27, 2008, a span of 10 games.

"I've never been a part of a win here," said Pickard, the younger brother of former Tri-City goalie Chet Pickard. "They are tough to play in their rink."

Pickard is no slouch himself.

"It's tough to beat Calvin anyhow," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, who has seen the young goalie shut out his team despite firing 57 shots. "I like the goal Shinny (Brendan Shinnimin) scored (to tie Wednesday's game). He found the puck on the ground and went upstairs. You aren't going to score too many when he has a clean look."

The Americans (32-11-0-1, 65 points) lead the U.S. Division by 11 points over second-place Spokane and Portland, and have an eight-point lead over Vancouver in the Western Conference standings. Tri-City will host Portland on Saturday.

Seattle (14-23-3-4, 35 points) is ninth in the Western Conference and is trying to catch Kelowna and Kamloops for a playoff spot.

"Our goal is to catch one of those teams, get in the playoffs and hopefully upset someone in the first round," Pickard said.

The Thunderbirds' stifling defense kept the high-scoring Americans in check Wednesday night, and Seattle coach Rob Sumner is bringing the same bag of tricks again tonight.

"We can't open it up and give them chances," Sumner said. "We have to manufacture chances and outwork them in front of their net."

Hiller said his team addressed issues that were not sharp Wednesday.

"We went through it and they (Seattle) played well from a tactical aspect," Hiller said. "We worked on getting the puck and winning puck battles. It doesn't matter what the other team does, if you don't win the puck and control the puck, you aren't going to be very dangerous."

The Americans average four goals a game, and have seven players with 14 or more goals. But Hiller said those numbers wouldn't be as impressive without the defense -- which has allowed 112 goals this season.

"Good defense leads to more opportunities," Hiller said. "All six on the ice have to do their part."