Tri-City Americans

Ashton, Ams defeat Kamloops 7-3

KENNEWICK -- Carter Ashton is the real deal.

The newest member of the Tri-City Americans made a big impact in his first game Friday with a goal and assist in helping the Americans to a 7-3 victory over the Kamloops Blazers before a crowd of 4,284 at Toyota Center.

Adam Hughesman, skating on a line with Ashton and Brendan Shinnimin, had two goals and an assist as the Americans won for the 10th straight time at home.

"I'm playing with two great players," said Ashton, who arrived in Kennewick on Wednesday. "The transition was quick and we will get better with time. We just have to get more familiar with each other's tendencies on the ice and that will make it better."

For coach Jim Hiller, the line performed as well, if not better, than he'd hoped.

"They controlled the puck well in the offensive zone," Hiller said. "The three of them are strong on the puck and have great instincts. They are going to be tough to contain down low."

With the win, the Americans (26-12-1-1, 54 points) are just three points behind U.S. Division-leading Portland, which lost to Kelowna on Friday.

Tri-City also is one point back of Spokane, which dropped a game at Kootenay.

With the loss, Kamloops (20-23-1-1, 42 points) has lost three in a row.

"Our team didn't respond well after we lost our captain (Chase Schaber) in the first period," said Kamloops coach Guy Charron, who noted that Schaber suffered a lower body injury. "Other people need to pick up the slack and we weren't able to sustain that. Confidence comes from winning, but playing a team like Tri-City, it's tough to get back on a winning streak."

Ashton opened the scoring at 11:44, beating Cam Lanigan over his left shoulder for his 17th goal of the season.

"Any time you come to a new team, you want a good start," Ashton said. "That first goal helped."

The Blazers answered 2 1/2 minutes later as Thomas Frazee took a pass from Colin Smith at the top of the crease and beat Drew Owsley.

From there, Hughesman scored two in a span of 3:20. His first was a laser beam that beat Lanigan glove side at 14:27, while the second came at 17:47 when he found an open net behind Lanigan at the right post.

"It's been pretty fun this year," said Hughesman, who leads the Americans with 26 goals. "Jim has been positive with me -- credit to him and my teammates. We knew for a while (Ashton) would be skating with us. He's a great player. His first game and he gets his first goal."

Colin Smith pulled the Blazers to within 3-2 early in the second, but it was all Tri-City from there.

Matt MacKenzie, in just his second game for Tri-City, scored from the point on the power play at 11:12, and Kruise Reddick gave the Americans a 5-2 lead at 17:38, scoring backdoor on Lanigan, who finished with 45 saves.

"They help our team. They would help any team," Hiller said of incorporating Ashton and MacKenzie into the lineup. "They complement our team and our style very well. Our guys are excited to add two players like that. When you have good people, the chemistry is easy."

Patrick Holland and Connor Rankin added third-period goals for the Americans, while Owsley finished with 23 saves and Shinnimin, Brock Sutherland and Tyler Schmidt each had two asssists.

The Americans had a scare at 11:45 of the second when Neal Prokop went down after checking Josh Caron into the boards. Prokop was helped off the ice favoring his left leg -- the one he broke last March.

"He seems to be all right," Hiller said. "It's not broken or anything, but we are being careful with it. We aren't sure if he will play (today)."