Adam Hughesman is on a tear.
The Tri-City veteran forward scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season Tuesday night as the Americans dispatched the Calgary Hitmen 3-1 before a crowd of 3,630 at Toyota Center.
"It's a good start to the year, but we still have 60 games left" said Hughesman, who has a point in 11 of 12 games. "Personal success is nice, but it's also nice to be 8-3."
Tri-City (8-3-1-0, 17 points) moved into a tie atop the U.S. Division standings with Portland, though the Winterhawks have a game in hand. The Americans will pack up the bus and hit the road again this weekend for a pair of games at Prince George.
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Calgary (4-5-0-0, 8 points), which is tied for last in the Central Division, will play at Spokane tonight.
Tuesday was the first time the Americans stepped on the ice with the Hitmen since Calgary beat Tri-City in five games in May to win the Western Hockey League title and move on to the Memorial Cup.
"Some of us guys from last year, we have an extra smile on our face," Hughesman said.
It was the first home game for the Americans since Oct. 2 and their first game since last Wednesday. There was a little rust on their sticks.
"It was a bit sloppy, but there was great goaltending at both ends," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "It's one of those games where the fans get their money's worth and the coaches go gray."
After a scoreless first period, Hughesman got the Americans on the board at 12:33 of the second.
Zach Yuen battled for the puck along the boards to the left of Calgary goalie Juraj Holly. He slid the puck behind the net to Brooks Macek, who fed Hughesman in the slot, where he beat Holly stick side.
Macek opened the third with a goal at 6:32, taking a feed from Justin Feser as he came streaming down the slot.
"I thought Brooks had his best game of the year," Hiller said. "He's been in the dog house a bit, but he was working hard tonight, and when he does that he's tough."
Calgary cut Tri-City's lead in half at 8:03 as Justin Kirsch put the puck over Drew Owsley's shoulder, but the Americans came right back with a goal by Patrick Holland 18 seconds later.
"We knew Tri-City would mark this game on the calendar and make a statement after last year," Calgary coach Mike Williamson said. "I thought our goaltender played well, but I don't think we competed at a level we needed to. We made it easy for their goalie to see the puck. We weren't willing to get our nose dirty in front of the net."
The Hitmen had a golden opportunity to score in the first period with a 5-on-3 power play for 1:11 at 8:57. Calgary put six shots on goal, but failed to get anything past Owsley, who had back-to-back pad saves at 9:11 and a glove save on a shot by Kris Foucault at 9:59.
"I was huffin' and puffin' out there more than usual," said Owsley, who finished with 34 saves. "That was a big kill for us. They score there and it's a different game. I had a couple of nice touches and that set the tone for me."
The Americans welcomed back Mason Wilgosh, who was playing his first game since taking a puck to the face during the preseason and breaking his jaw. The veteran forward was a key component on the penalty kill.
"Willie was great," Hiller said. "You noticed him on the PK and he had a couple of shots. For his first game back, he added something to our team."
*Annie Fowler: 582-1574; email@example.com