The Tri-City Americans kickoff their annual Red Lion Hotels Preseason Tournament on Thursday against the Kootenay Ice, but bigger than the game at hand, is the performance of veterans and young players as the team prepares to pare down its roster to a manageable number.
The Americans still have 19 forwards, 11 defensemen and three goalies in camp. Of those, three forwards and two defensemen are attending NHL camps this week and will miss the tournament.
“We are not starting fresh,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said of evaluations. “We’ve had training camp and last weekend to make decisions. It’s really important they come out and compete hard this weekend and show how they can help our team. We will start to get our numbers down after the weekend.”
Tri-City went 1-2 in the Everett tournament last week, beating Seattle, losing in overtime to Portland and losing in regulation to Victoria.
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“I really liked our first two games,” Williamson said. “We showed a lot of creativity, but we still didn’t finish a lot of our chances. The second game I thought we should have won. We created a lot of chances. The third game, we had a bit of a younger lineup. I was disappointed in the energy level, and I thought leadership was lacking.”
While the Americans faced all Western Conference teams at the Everett tournament, they will take on Kootenay and Red Deer from the Central Division before playing Seattle on Saturday night.
“We are going to see them (Western Conference teams) a lot and it’s nice to get familiar with them, but it’s not bad to see other teams,” Williamson said. “We are going to be looking at a lot more of what we are doing, but Kootenay is always competitive.”
The tournament got under way Wednesday night with Portland beating Prince George 3-2 at Toyota Center.
THURSDAY: Everett vs. Prince George 11 a.m.; Portland vs. Spokane, 3 p.m.; Tri-City vs. Kootenay, 7:05 p.m.
FRIDAY: Everett vs. Portland, 11 a.m.; Kootenay vs. Seattle, 3 p.m.; Tri-City vs. Red Deer, 7:05 p.m.
SATURDAY: Kootenay vs. Prince George, 11 a.m.; Red Deer vs. Spokane, 3 p.m.; Tri-City vs. Seattle, 7:05 p.m.
Americans gone camping
Defensemen Brandon Carlo and Parker Wotherspoon are off to the East Coast. Carlo will participate at Boston Bruins camp, which begins today. Wotherspoon is at the New York Islanders rookie camp.
Forward Ty Comrie is headed to the Los Angeles Kings camp, while fellow forwards Maxwell James and Austyn Playfair will be at the Arizona Coyotes camp.
“It’s a good opportunity for them,” Williamson said. “We expect them to go there and push as hard as they can. They will get to watch the pro guys and see how they play and prepare and bring that back to our hockey team.”
Just a bruise
Defenseman Juuso Välimäki, whom the Americans picked up in the CHL European draft in June, played in two of the team’s games in Everett, but missed the first one after blocking a puck with his foot the day before the tourney. X-rays were negative for a break or fracture.
“It was good to see him out there,” Williamson said. “He is a well-rounded two-way defenseman, and he will help us a lot.”
vs. Kootenay Ice,
7:05 p.m., Toyota Center