The Kelowna Rockets are in town today. This is one team I truly enjoy. The games are good, the coaches are nice the radio guys are friendly. Gord, the color guy, went shopping today, dropping a few Canadian dollars in the Tri-Cities. It's rumored he bought new ties, but tonight he is wearing a red, white, blue and ugly green swirled tie that is not very pretty. He said he was saving his new ties for home games.
The Americans, as they did last night, are warming up in their Nuclear Night jerseys. They are purple and blue with the nuclear symbol and all. Very creative but I wouldn't want to see them every night. These dandy duds will be auctioned off to support the players' education fund.
Tonight brings Zak Stebner back to town. Remember, that D-man the Americans got from Calgary earlier this season? Then they traded him to Kelowna when Neal Prokop returned from a broken leg. Then, just when you thought all was good, the Americans made another trade with Calgary for D-man Matt MacKenzie. Calgary, which beat the Ams in the WHL finals last year, appear to be helping the Ams make another run to the top.
The Rockets, who dominated the league and the Amerians 5 years ago, have fallen on hard time lately here in Kennewick. Toyota Center has become a House of Horrors for the followers of Ogopogo — they are 0-9 in their last nine visits. Let's see if the Americans can run that record to 10. Call me greedy, but I rather like writing the winning story.
Tonight, Drew Owsley is manning the Tri-City goal, while the Rockets are going with rookie Jordan Cooke (4-3-0-0). With the way the Americans have been scoring, I'm not so sure this is fair. But then again, numbers on paper mean nothing.
Earlier today, I watched the Manitoba Moose beat the Abbotsford Heat in AHL action on the NHL Network (at least DirecTV hasn't taken that away, yet). Former Ams goalie Tyler Weiman had 29 saves in leading the Moose to a 5-3 win. Tyler is 10-4-2 this season with a 2.50 GAA and a .908 save percentage. According to the announcers, it was minus-30 (Canadian) in Winnipeg. With the wind chill factor, it was minus-35. I'm sure the Americans' Manitoba contingent is grateful to be here, where it was 50 degrees.
There were a lot of names that sounded very familiar as the game went along. Small wonder. Between both teams, I have 15 of the players take the ice here at Toyota Center. In goal for the Heat was former Everett goalie Leland Irving. Playing with Tyler in Manitoba are former Vancouver Giants Mario Bliznak and Kevin Connauton. Such a small world.
Speaking of Tyler Weiman, Drew is just one win from tying his win record of 67 and two from passing him for third place. It's hard to believe that 68 wins would put a guy third on the wins list with guys like Olie Kolzig and Brian Boucher on the alumni roster. Tyler did play in some tough times — like the year they won just 20 games.
The puck drops in about 5 minutes. Stop by later for more.
Things didn't start so well for the Americans, who trailed 2-0 at 11:47. But, things turned around and with goals by Carter Ashton and Justin Feser, the game is tied at 2-2 at the end of one.
In this game, it is hit your opponent first, then get the puck. It has been pretty physical. Adam Hughesman has been sent to the penalty box TWICE for roughing. But, a Kelowna totally wiped out Drew and no call. That's what a one-referee game gets you. Mr. Kevin Muench, if you are reading, two is much better. Games tend to get out of hand with one. I invite you to come see for yourself.
In other WHL action, Spokane and Portland also are tied at 2-2. This is game where it's hard to root for anyone, but if Spokane wins, they are tied with Portland at the top with 65 points. Providing the Ams win, they would have 63 points. A Portland win would put them up 4 points on the Ams, who then would be tied with Spokane.
In the NFL playoffs, Green Bay is packing to go the Super Bowl after a 21-14 win over Chicago. At present, Pittsburgh is up 24-10 on the New York J-E-T-S.
This just in from the ECHL, Chet Pickard and the Cincinnati Cyclones lost today. Chet had 19 saves in a 4-2 loss to the Toledo Walleye.
A goal by MacKenzie Johnston has the Rockets out front 3-2 after two. The Americans look like a team that has played four games in six nights. They still are having a tough time getting in sync with each other. There are 20 minutes left. Plenty of time to turn this game around.
Let's hear it for Jordan Cooke. The Kelowna rookie goalie had 30 saves in picking up a key 4-3 road win for the Rockets.
Carter Ashton had a pair of goals for the Ams, but Tri-City allowed four goals on 15 shots. Not its best night.
The players are in the midst of a skate with the fans down below me. This has got to be hard after a loss like this, but they put on a smile and take a few laps around the rink.