Really nice piece in the Herald today on one of my absolute favorite guys, just a neat kid.
In his third year with the Americans, Messier, 19, has come into his own. He played two seasons here with older brother Jordan, who was traded to Moose Jaw at the overage deadline in October.Meanwhile, Buzzing the Net has a playoff preview:
“It was tough at first,” said Messier, a native of Canmore, Alberta. “I’ve been here with him my whole career. Now, I’m not Little Mess as much. I can be me. When Jordan left, it opened up a forward spot. I got a good opportunity, and I rolled with it.”
[...]“He’s a year older, and his role has changed,” said Tri-City general manager Bob Tory, who selected Messier in the second round of the 2009 Western Hockey League bantam draft. “He’s stronger, more mature, and he’s getting more ice time. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in intelligence.”
Messier has skated on a line with Lucas Nickles all season, with the third member of their line rotating depending on injuries that have run rampant through the team this season.
Messier and Nickles use their speed to create opportunities.
“One of my strong points is being able to skate,” Messier said, “but Nicks is unbelievably fast. That pushes the pace, gets their D-men out of the zone and opens things up for us.”
In 70 games this season, Nickles contributed 10 goals and 17 assists. Last season, he had one goal and one assist in 44 games.
While Messier’s offensive contributions have increased, so has his time on the penalty kill. The Americans ranked eighth during the regular season at 82.8 percent.
“Me, Fes (Justin Feser) and (Drydn) Dow are out there all the time,” Messier said. “People don’t really understand. They think it’s hard. It feels good when you don’t let them score. It doesn’t feel good when you take one in the ankle. When you block a lot of shots, you close your eyes and hope it doesn’t hurt too bad. You can’t stay down too long because they aren’t going to blow it dead.”
Feser, the Americans’ captain in his fifth year with the team, said he has seen Messier come into his own over the last couple of years.
“They play different roles,” Feser said of the Messier brothers. “He has elevated his game since Jordan left. He plays his role well. He shuts down top lines and blocks shots. He’s a smart player. He understands the offensive side, but defensively and on the PK is where he really shines.” (Herald)
Why Spokane should win: This is a series between perhaps the two most baffling teams in the Western Conference. The Chiefs have one of the most balanced teams in the league, but at times looked incapable of beating the league’s bottom-feeders. At their best, the Chiefs could keep up with Portland and Kelowna. If they get solid play from three lines, they could wear the Americans down over the course of a long series.
Mitch Holmberg’s 39-goal season wasn’t totally surprising, but Todd Fiddler’s 42-goal outburst this season was a huge lift. Mike Aviani (30 goals, +37) and Alessio Bertaggia, who scored 13 goals in 16 games after coming over from Brandon in a trade, provide further punch.
Defenceman Brenden Kichton led the team for the second straight season in scoring (22-63-85) and may have some added motivation to performa after declining to sign with the New York Islanders and becoming re-eligible for the NHL draft.
How Tri-City could win: The Ams have the best player on the ice in Justin Feser (44 goals, 106 points), but no other Tri-City player has more than Malte Strömwall’s 66 points. Connor Rankin (32 goals) is the other main goal-scoring threat, but the Americans really hit their stride in January and February when 20-year-old tough guy Jesse Mychan found his offensive touch. Mychan scored 16 goals in 18 games in one stretch, but finished the season with just two in his last 11 games.
Mychan, Rankin and others like Parker Bowles and Brian Williams need to chip in offensively to give the Ams life.
With goalie Eric Comrie sidelined the rest of the season due to injury, rookie Troy Trombley has played his way into the starting role. Trombley started out on fire, but has come back to Earth a bit. Still, Trombley’s .911 save percentage is better than either Spokane netminder.
This intense rivarly matchup tends to make for even series regardless of the team's records, as was evident last year when the top-seeded Americans needed seven games to get past the Chiefs in round two. Expect this to be the only series in the West with any sort of drama. (BTN)