This team. Like...whoa.
Tri-City (8-3-1-1, 18 points), which has points in nine consecutive games, increased its lead in the U.S. Division to three points over Portland.I'll admit, the Eastern swing this early in the season made me nervous. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to bring their "A" game every night and the season is so young I wasn't sure they had gelled enough to be as great as they have been. On big road swings you hope to return home at .500, but these guys have exceeded my expectations.
"I couldn't be doing much better," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said in a phone interview. "We couldn't shake them, but we played pretty well. The nice part is they have found their way as a team. They have come together and worked for each other and have been rewarded."
In the fifth game of a six-game road swing through the East Division, the Americans improved to 4-0-1-0, and will finish their trip tonight at Swift Current before returning home.
"As much as we love the Toyota Center, I'm not sure we want to come home," quipped Hiller, whose team is 6-1-1-0 on the road. (Herald)
About the gelling, yes it's early in the season and team bonding gets stronger throughout the season, but on the flip side, a gazillion hours on a bus forces some quick bonding as well. And they've been doing team stuff, like they went curling together on Thursday. Whatever team building activities they've been doing, it's been paying off in spades.
The other thing the Ams have going for them right now is scoring by committee. It's not just one or two guys (like the Hughesmans, Shinnimins, Faddens, Yellowhorns of the past), it's everyone.
Feser: 8 goals
Nickles: 4 goals
Rankin: 5 goals
Stromwall: 5 goals (in fewer games)
Bowles: 4 goals
Lil Mess: 3 goals
I could go on, but you get the point (or you can check the stats page yourself).
Additionally, McCue and Lil Mess are +6 right now. Westie was giving mad props to the 4th line last night, they got a ton of playing time (Gutierrez, McCue, Dallman I think).
On paper, this team was not supposed to be this good. They certainly were not predicted by anyone to be sitting atop the US division, 2nd in the Western Conference. But this is what the Americans have done year after year--proven people wrong.
Now I'm a realist, and I know the old saying that it's a marathon not a sprint. The Ams are only 14 games into the season, there's a lot of hockey left to play. But holy crap, have they ever built a strong foundation for the remainder of the season. The young kids are performing better than most (including me) thought. I'm definitely optimistic, although a bit cautiously so.
As The Dog mentioned in the liveblog last night, the Americans have won (or gone to overtime/shootout) in the nine games the Drydn Dow has been back in the lineup. COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT.
So the road trip continues tonight as the boys are in Swift Current. Hopefully good play and winning ways will continue. Click on the "Read More" to join in the livebloggidy fun.