These things happen. Get on a roll, win a few games in a row, then hit the wall.
The Tri-City Americans ran headfirst into the proverbial wall Wednesday in a 6-2 road loss to the Kelowna Rockets.
"That was the worst I've seen us play since I've been here," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team's four-game winning streak came to a crashing halt. "It was almost unbelievable. We didn't have anyone who had a good game. There was no support to be had."
Despite the loss, the Americans (19-7-0-0, 38 points) were 8-2 in November. The .800 winning percentage is the franchise's top mark for the month.
Tri-City played Wednesday without top defenseman Zach Yuen, who returned to Vancou-ver, British Columbia, to be with his family after the death of his maternal grandmother. His return to the team is unknown.
Tonight, the Americans are at Seattle (11-12-0-1, 23 points), where they were shut out 3-0 by Calvin Pickard on Nov. 18.
"Our leaders are already looking forward to (tonight)," Hiller said. "It will be a real measure of who we are from the last game."
Of the Americans' seven losses, five have come to teams with losing records.
"If you can get up for the big games, you have to be able to do the same against teams without winning records," Americans forward Brendan Shinnimin said. "It wasn't the style of hockey we played the last three games and on our road trip to Alberta."
Saturday, the Americans will host the Everett Silvertips in their annual Teddy Bear Toss game. Fans are encouraged to bring a new or gently used stuffed animal to be thrown onto the ice after the Americans score their first goal.
Last year, Shinnimin scored the first goal just 1:10 into the 4-1 victory over Seattle.
"Two years ago, Brooks Macek scored the first goal of the season and the Teddy Bear goal," Shinnimin said. "I had both of those goals last year. It's pretty cool to score that goal. It's quite the experience when the animals come down."
If the last two years have anything to do with things, Justin Feser is in line to pot the first goal.
Over the last 10 years, the Americans are 9-0-0-0 with one tie on Teddy Bear Toss night.
More than 23,000 stuffed animals have found their way into the arms of children over the last 10 years, including 2,839 last season.
"It's such a great tradition, and it means so much to so many," Hiller said. "It really puts things into perspective. Everyone wants that first goal."
Shinnimin would like to have it again, but he knows he will have competition.
"Everyone says how much they want it," Shinnimin said. "They say they will be selfish and not come off until they score -- we just have fun with it."
Former defenseman Clayton Stoner is the only player in the last 10 years to score the Teddy Bear goal twice (2003 and 2004). Jordan Cameron has the fastest goal scored at 37 seconds.
This year, the donated items will be split between local organizations that include Safe Harbor, the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, Kennewick General Hospital, the Pasco Fire Department and the Boys & Girls Club.
The Tri-City players personally deliver a few of the toys, mainly at the hospitals.
"It's a community thing," Shinnimin said. "To have all those people donate, and to be a part of that, it's heartwarming. It's great to see the kids who are in the hospital, or who are less fortunate, to be happy when they are down."
Organizations can contact the Americans if they would like to join the list of recipients.
* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574; firstname.lastname@example.org