Tri City (0-2-0-0, 0 pts) comes to Portland (1-0-0-1, 3 pts) tonight for a match-up of U.S. Division rivals. The Americans hosted both Spokane and Prince George last Saturday and Sunday night, dropping both contests to teams widely believed to not be playoff teams. Spokane rode 3 goals and an assist from Mitch Holmberg to ruin Tri City's home opener 6-2 on Saturday and then the lowly P.G. Cougars edged the Americans 2-1on 2 goals from Troy Bourke. Needless to say, not a great start for the Americans this season and they hope to right the ship on the road tonight.
Tri City PreviewLast Season:
The Americans were led by Western Conference MVP Justin Feser to a 40-27-0-5 record for 85 points and 5th place in the Western Conference. They then lost to arch-rivals the Spokane Chiefs in 5 games in the first round. The team that went all the way to the Western Conference Final in 2011-12, lost a lot of key contributors and relied heavily upon Feser and Goalie Eric Comrie. Comrie lost half of his season to an injury and the Americans had to scoop up free agents Troy Tombley and Luke Lee-Knight in hopes of saving their season. Trombley and Lee-Knight performed admirably posting 2.92 and 2.90 Goals Against Averages respectively, but the team just did not have enough depth up front for this to be enough to carry them past the first round. Feser scored 40 more points then the next highest scorer Malte Stromwall (who is also gone now as he left to play in Sweden) and an experienced defensive unit just was not consistent enough for the Americans. Now that Feser has played out his eligibility, Coach Jim Hiller, in his 5th season, is hoping that Comrie and company still have enought to get Tri City to the playoffs for the 11th season in a row.
With the loss of Feser, Stromwall and '92 born power forward Jess Mychan, Tri City is hoping that they can get enough scoring from the likes of '94 born Connor Rankin (58 points last season)and a trio of '95 born Forwards: Parker Bowles (44 pts), Brian Williams (36 pts) and Beau McCue (29 pts). They should also benefit from a full season from '93 born Phil Tot, who was acquired last season from Lethbridge but missed a majority of the season with an injury. Tot is joined as a 20 year old over-age up front by Jessey Astles who was one of the many over-agers that Saskatoon unloaded in the off-season. Astles has only 18 points over 4 seasons between Kelowna and Saskatoon, but should play an enforcer role for the Americans this season. While there is some talent in this group of forwards, they are definitely lacking in the proven scoring punch department, proving this by only mustering 1 goal against young Cougar's Goalie Ty Edmonds Sunday. Joining this unproven bunch this season are '97 born: Center Ty Comrie (Brother of Eric and NHLer Mike) and LW Braden Purtill. Comrie and Purtill were both 3rd round selections in the 2012 Bantam Draft.
The first round selection from that draft is someone whose last name will be familiar to Winterhawk's fans: Parker Wotherspoon. That's right, the younger brother of soon to be former Hawk Tyler. Parker is a 16 year old rookie with Tri City, who showed a lot of potential running the power-play in the preseason. He may actually see more time then Tri City fans would hope for as Drydn Dow was lost as an over ager and last week the Toronto Maple Leafs sent '93 born Zach Yuen to the Marleys of the AHL It is very likely that means the 5th leading scorer from last year's team is also gone. Tri City does have fellow '93 born D-man Mitch Topping returning and the new Captain will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting with a young back end. '94 born D-men Wil Tomchuk and Justin Hamonic, both defensive D-men with not much offensive upside, will have to play more prominent roles on both ends of the ice for Tri City this season. Another '97 born D-man 6'5" Brandon Carlo gives them another young guy to choose from.
Having to backstop behind this young unit is Eric Comrie. Comrie posted a 2.62 GAA and a .915 Save %, before his injury lost him the last half of the season. Despite his injury, he was still drafted in the second round by the Winnipeg Jets and by all reports impressed them in training camp. Comrie has all the potential in the world but will be stuck in a difficult situation all season behind a mostly inexperienced team. He still has the talent though to steal a game here or there and should Tri City get improvement from their D-men, this could be a tough team to score on. Comrie is backed up this season by '97 born Evan Sarthou. The Americans seem to have made a decision to give Comrie Marty Brodeur in his prime type numbers as far as games played this season. For their sake, I hope Comrie holds up, otherwise they will be searching for additions like Trombley and Lee-Knight again this season.
-Puck drops at 7:00 pm tonight in Portland as the Hawks hope to rebound from a lackluster performance in Seattle last Saturday.
-Portland does get Brendan Leipsic back for this game, needing him desperately as a rash of injuries have taken out Shane McColgan, Dominic Turgeon and Paul Bittner, leaving only enough forwards to start 11 in Seattle.
- Leipsic also figures to be a shot in the arm of the lineup as his type of play should pace the Hawks to a much better start then Saturday.
-Tri City also has a lot to prove in this game as They were outscored 8-3 this weekend and outshot 66-46 in the 2 losses.
-Though he also scored 6 points over 2 games, Oliver Bjorkstrand missed out on play of the week to Swift Current's rookie D-man: Julius Honka.
-Keegan Iverson and Chase De Leo leave the team for Pittsburgh on Thursday to compete in the All American Prospect Game.