It’s opening night for the Americans and Chiefs here at Toyota Center. It’s quiet right now (5:30 p.m.), but I suspect there won’t be many, if any, empty seats come drop of the puck.
A full house here is about 5,900, more if you count the standing room only. Last night, Kennewick and Kamiakin filled Lampson Stadium (6,800). Saddest thing I saw today were all the empty seats at the Yale Bowl, where Yale beat Cornell 37-17. I watched part of this game flipping through the channels. There couldn’t have been more than 3,000 or 4,000 fans there, though the official box score said there was 14,345 — capacity is 61,446. Maybe it just looked that empty since there were no fans in the end zones or past the 40-yard line on either side.
Tonight, the Americans are nearly at full strength. Brendan Shinnimin is with the Portland Pirates of the AHL, and Matt MacKenzie is with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. Zach Yuen, Patrick Holland, Sam Grist and Adam Hughesman have returned from their NHL experiences. Also, Jordan Messier, who missed the preseason with concussion symptoms, skated this week and has been cleared to play. He is in the lineup tonight.
The Americans have won their last 10 home openers, dating back to 2001 — a 5-2 win over Portland. Of those wins, five have come against Spokane.
The Chiefs still are without Darren Kramer (Ottawa). Dominik Uher was returned to Spokane by the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this week. Reid Gow, who had 37 stitches inside of his nose last week, will play, albeit with a cage instead of a visor.
The Chiefs are opening their regular season on the road for the 11th straight year.
Spokane coach Don Nachbaur has won 477 WHL games between his stints with Seattle, Tri-City and Spokane. He needs 23 wins to reach the 500 mark.
The Americans and Chiefs will have 10 of their games shown on TV this season, including tonight’s tilt. There will be five broadcasts out of each arena. The viewing schedule is as follows:
Saturday, October 1st Tri City @ Spokane
Saturday, October 29th Spokane @ Tri City
Saturday, November 5th Tri City @ Spokane
Saturday, December 31st Spokane @ Tri City
Saturday, January 14th Tri City @ Spokane
Saturday, February 11th Tri City @ Spokane
Saturday, February 18th Spokane @ Tri City
Saturday, February 25th Tri City @ Spokane
Saturday, March 17th Spokane @ Tri City
The Ams-Chiefs rivalry is in its 23rd year. The Chiefs lead the regular-season series 139-119-1-5 with 13 ties. Tonight is game No. 277 between the two clubs.
Tonight’s scratch lists are: Tri-City — Riley Guenther, Matt MacKenzie, Justin Hamonic, Tyson Dallman, Justin Gutierrez, Brendan Shinnimin, Olli Dickson.
Spokane — Jason Fram, Tyler King, Zach Rakochy, Mike Aviani, Darren Kramer.
Steve Papp and Matt Thurston are the referees, while Trevor Shively and Jason Michelbook are the linesmen.
I have to say, I like the Americans heritage jerseys. They are cream colored with stars on the shoulders, red stripes on the hem and the sleeves and the eagle on the front. Very classy looking.
Also of note, Mason Wilgosh is listed as the team captain tonight. If there is player who has earned this honor, it's Mason. And, Ty Rimmer is getting the start in net.
The Chiefs take a 1-0 lead at the end of the first on a power-play goal by Anthony Bardaro at 14:33.
The Americans, who were experimenting with lines, had nine shots on goal and two power plays, but had nothing to show for it.
With goals by Justin Feser and Michal Plutnar, the Americans took a 2-1 lead after two periods.
Spokane's Dominik Uher was ejected from the game at 12:02 of the second for a checking-from-behind penalty on Mason Wilgosh.
Connor Rankin and Adam Hughesman scored in the third as the Americans pulled out a 4-1 win in front of 5,599 fans. Not as big a crowd as there has been on opening night, but still a lot of butts in the seats.
The Portland Winterhawks are here Sunday.