Tri-City Americans

Paying the Toll night after night for Ams

KENNEWICK — Jarrett Toll has played his entire career with the Tri-City Americans. Tonight, the overage defenseman will play his 250th Western Hockey League game.

"I did not know that," he said. "I've been injured a lot. I didn't think I was that close."

If not for injuries during his career, he could have played more than 300 games. As it stands, if he plays every game the rest of the season -- starting tonight against Vancouver -- he will reach 274, which would rank him fifth all-time in the Americans record book (tops among defensemen) for games played.

Brent Ascroft (1992-97) leads the list at 355.

"Fifth? That's a pretty crazy feeling," said Toll, who was named team captain before the start of the season.

Toll missed 20 games during the 2006-07 season after his jaw was broken in a game at Spokane on Jan. 13, 2007. The following season, he missed the first six games with an ankle injury. He's also had a broken hand, broken finger and broken ribs, not to mention all the bumps and bruises that come with every game.

"You can't dwell on the past," Toll said. "Injuries are part of the game. I play hard and sometimes that happens."

He also has a hard time acknowledging this is his final year in the WHL.

"I still feel like I'm 16 and coming here for my first season," he said. "I don't know where the time has gone."

Time may have gotten away from him, but the memories haven't.

"Being a part of the first banner from where we've come since my first year, it goes to show we've gotten better," Toll said. "I looked up to Logan Stephenson -- the intensity he brought every night -- and it's cool to know you've played with guys who are playing in the NHL."

An occasional stroll down memory lane is nice, but Toll will have to be on top of his game this weekend with a pair of key Western Conference games.

Tri-City (35-11-0-1, 71 points) will finish its seven-game homestand tonight and Saturday against Vancouver and U.S. Division rival Spokane. The Americans, who have won five straight, are atop the U.S. Division, Western Conference and WHL standings.

The Americans and Giants have split their 22 games over the last five years, but Tri-City leads this year's series 2-0.

The B.C. Division-leading Giants (29-17-1-2, 61 points) are just 5-5 over their last 10 games and are coming off a 3-2 loss to Everett on Wednesday, but Toll said you can never take a night off against the Giants.

"With Vancouver being coached by Don Hay, you know they are going to come every night and play hard," Toll said.

The Chiefs (26-16-3-1, 56 points) and Americans each have won three game games at the midway point of their 12-game series. Spokane, fourth in the U.S. Division, trails Tri-City by 15 points. The Chiefs are coming off a 4-3 loss to the Kootenay Ice.

"They are both conference games and teams we have to stay above, especially with Everett being so hot." Toll said. "We need to keep winning and earning points or they will catch us."

Not only are the points necessary to stay atop the West, but the Americans also are in search other another Scotty Munro trophy for the best record in the WHL. Right now, Tri-City is battling Saskatoon in the points race. The Blades, who beat the Americans earlier this month, have 69 points, but have a game in hand.

"We want to be the best team," said Tri-City forward Brendan Shinnimin. "We want to get better and every point is important -- Saskatoon beat us and they have the edge."

Notes

The Tampa Bay Lightning has returned James Wright to Vancouver, but the 19-year-old center won't play for the Giants until next week. With Tampa Bay, Wright had two goals and three assists in 48 games. ... Kamloops goalie Kurtis Mucha set the WHL record for minutes played Wednesday in a 5-2 loss to his former team, the Portland Winterhawks. Mucha has played 12,775 minutes, surpassing Kyle Moir's record of 12,774 (Swift Current, 2002-06). Mucha has a chance to break two more records this season. He is five games shy of Moir's record of 233 games played, and is 510 saves shy of Danny Lorenz's record of 6,958 (Seattle, 1985-90).

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