Tri-City Americans

Ams vs. Hitmen preview box

A look at the WHL championship series:

This season

The Americans finished atop the U.S. Division and the Western Conference with a 47-22-1-2 record and 97 points. They beat Chilliwack 4-2 in the first round, Kelowna 4-1 in the second round, and Vancouver 4-2 to win their first Western Conference title. ... The Hitmen won the Central Division with a 52-17-1-2 record and 107 points, capturing the Scotty Munro trophy for the league's best record. Calgary needed 7 games to get past Moose Jaw in the first round, 6 to take out Medicine Hat in the second, and cruised past Memorial Cup host Brandon in 5 games to win the East. ... The Hitmen won the lone regular-season matchup 3-0 in Calgary. This is the first time the two have met in the playoffs.

Coaches

Take your pick here. Tri-City's Jim Hiller has shaken three stale years in Chilliwack off his hands and has the Americans playing for their first WHL title. If he's overwhelmed, it's not showing. ... Mike Williamson, who was at Portland for eight years before stepping away from coaching for a couple years, is in his first year with the Hitmen, but there doesn't appear to be any rookie jitters north of the border. Both are letting their teams play to their strengths and the results have been good. Advantage: Even

Special teams

Calgary and Tri-City finished 1-2 on the power play during the regular season at 29 and 28 percent. The Hitmen were at the top of the penalty kill at 87.5 percent, while the Americans were ranked 15th at 78.5 percent. In the playoffs, Tri-City's power play is fourth at 28.6 percent, while Calgary dropped down to eighth at 23.9 percent. On the PK, Calgary is third (82 percent), while Tri-City is seventh (78.8). Both teams have relied on special teams in the playoffs, especially Tri-City, which exploited Vancouver's penalty kill, going 11-for-30 (36.6 percent) and shut down the Giants' power play (6-for-27). Advantage: Even

Offense

Tri-City has nine players with 10 or more points and seven players with 5 or more goals in 17 playoff games. The Americans have scored 62 goals (3.6 per game) -- 13 less than Calgary, which has played one more game. Brendan Shinnimin leads the speedy Americans with 8 goals and 22 points, while Kruise Reddick has nine goals and 21 points. Calgary's Brandon Kozun leads the playoffs with 26 points (7 goals, 19 assists), while Joel Broda leads the Hitmen and the playoffs with 12 goals. Calgary has 12 players with 10 or more points, including defensemen Matt MacKenzie, Michael Stone and Giffen Nyren. Advantage: Calgary

Defense

The Americans have allowed just 39 goals in 17 games (2.29 per game), while Calgary has given up 49 (2.72). There are no marquee names on the Tri-City blue line, but they have combined rating of plus-30. Tri-City blocks a ton of shots out front and keeps its penalties to a minimum (217 minutes). Calgary will have to tighten its security around the net against the quick and crafty Americans, and slow down its parade to the penalty box (289 PIMs). Advantage: Tri-City

Goaltending

Tri-City's Drew Owsley has been one of the top goalies in the WHL this season. He finished the regular season 33-11-1-1, sharing the net the second half of the season with Alex Pechurskiy. No goaltender has been more consistent the playoffs. Owsley has been outstanding, posting a 12-5 record with a 2.14 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. In his last four games against Vancouver, Owsley was 3-1, with a 1.97 GAA and a .939 save percentage. He was named Western Conference finals MVP. ... Calgary's Martin Jones was 36-11-0-1 this season with a 2.21 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Already signed by the NHL's Kings, Jones was named WHL goaltender of the year Wednesday and played for Team Canada at the World Juniors, where they won a silver medal. In the playoffs, Jones is 12-6 with a 2.61 GAA and a .905 save percentage. Against Brandon in the Eastern finals, he allowed just 12 goals on 156 shots (.949 save percentage). Jones was named Eastern Conference finals MVP. Advantage: Even

Prediction

The Americans are a blue-collar group that isn't flashy but gets the job done from the forwards to the goaltender. The Hitmen have balanced scoring, solid defense and good goaltending. Flip a loonie, my friends. Tri-City in 7

  Comments