The trip to Prince George, British Columbia, is a long one, but one every team in the U.S. Division has to make each season. The nearly 1,600-mile round trip for the Tri-City Americans was broken up with a stop in Kamloops last week, but that still didn’t make it any more enjoyable.
“You sit on the bus close to 16 hours on the way home,” Americans coach Mike Williamson said. “You’d think that much time sitting there you’d be refreshed, but it is more exhausting that doing something physical. Good to get it out of the way. We will have lots of travel, but that long one is done.”
The Americans went 2-1 on their trip, and Williamson said there were a lot of positives to take away from the journey.
“The roads were good and the bus didn’t break down. Last year, we can’t say the same,” Williamson said. “Overall, looking back on the trip, two out of three isn’t bad. We gave ourselves a chance every game, even the last one. I wasn’t happy with the way we played (4-1 loss), but Sarts (Evan Sarthou) made some big stops, we got a big goal in the third and we were looking at a 2-1 game and having a chance in that one as well. Overall, I think we made some strides. Still, as every team does, we have a long way to go, but we have seen some positive things.”
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Tri-City (3-2-1-0, 7 points) will continue it’s move forward as this week brings three games — hosting Prince Albert (4-2-0-1, 9 points??) tonight, playing at Vancouver on Friday and finishing with a home game against Portland on Saturday.
Prince Albert is coming off a ?-? loss/win Tuesday over/to the Portland Winterhawks. The Raiders are 0-3/1-2 on their trek through the U.S. Division with previous losses to Seattle and Everett.
The Raiders got good news early Tuesday that defenseman Brendan Guhle was being returned by the Buffalo Sabres. Guhle made his season debut Tuesday night against Portland.
“It’s a busy week,” Williamson said. “It’s going to be important that we get contributions out of different guys. We don’t want to have to rely on two lines and four D. We need guys to step up and play key minutes at a high pace for all three games.”
Rookie Kyle Olson made a big splash on the Americans’ road trip, scoring his first WHL goal in Kamloops, then adding another goal in the first game in Prince George. In six games, he has two goals and two assists.
“He’s just a competitive hockey player,” Williamson said. “When it comes time to step on the ice and the throw the puck out, he’s fighting for it. He’s competitive, he has a good skill level. I think it’s his desire to fight for the puck and get it to his teammates that makes him special. He’s come in and fought to earn some ice time and we expect him to continue to get better.”
Olson, a 5-10, 150-pound native of Calgary, Alberta, appreciates the opportunities he’s been given so far this season.
“The coach has given me a little extra ice time and I’ve tried to make the most of it,” Olson said. “We got two wins, wish we could have gotten the third, but it was a pretty good weekend for us.”
And his first goal?
“It’s nice to get the first one out of the way,” Olson said. “Words can’t explain. It’s an amazing feeling. It really is awesome.”
He admitted the road trip was not near as exciting, but there was one positive.
“Those long bus trips are tough,” he said. “You have to tough it out and get your rest and be ready to play every game. Being a new guy on this team, it’s fun to learn about other players and make friendships. Our team has been doing a good job of that lately.”
TRAINING ROOM: Brian Williams is back on the ice after taking a puck to the foot, but Taylor Vickerman is out of action for the next game or two after suffering the same fate in the first game in Prince George. ... Riley Hillis (upper body) and Austyn Playfair (upper body) still are on the shelf. “Hilly is very close and could be as soon as (today),” Williamson said. “We will know more after practice. If not, we expect him by the weekend, for sure. Austyn is a little ways out.”
WHL/CHL HONORS: Moose Jaw’s Brayden Point was named WHL Player of the Week after scoring five goals with four assists in three games as the Warriors went 2-0-0-1. ... Victoria’s Coleman Vollrath was names CHL goaltender of the week after posting a 3-0-0-1 record with a 1.00 goal against average and a .960 save percentage.
MOVIN’ ON UP: Kamloops general manager Craig Bonner resigned and has taken a job as a scout for the Dallas Stars. Stu MacGregor was named vice president and general manager of the Blazers.