Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Tri-City Americans (22-15-1-2, 47 pts) at Kamloops Blazers (28-10-2-2, 60 pts)
Interior Savings Centre, Kamloops, BC; 7:00 p.m.
Listen: NewsTalk 870
Watch: WHL Live
Kamloops: 6-1 Win vs. Seattle
Tri-City: 5-2 Loss at Victoria
Kamloops: Colin Smith, 27G-41A–68PT; Tim Bozon 25G-32A–57PT; JC Lipon 22G-35A-57PT
Tri-City: Justin Feser, 21G-25A–46PT; Malte Strömwall 12G-17A–29PT; Connor Rankin 17G-11A–28PT
The Kamloops Blazers come into this game back at full strength with JC Lipon returning to the lineup after being away at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Colin Smith stepped up to fill the void while Lipon was gone and he is now tied for the league lead in scoring. Smith, Lipon and Tim Bozon are in the top six in scoring and is a line that is a force to be reckoned with throughout the league. Kamloops was the top team in the WHL the last time the two teams met, but a 5-6 record in December has Kamloops nine points behind the Winterhawks pace for the most points. The team does bring a three game winning streak into this game and is 2-0 in 2013. The Americans bring in their hot line to this game comprised of Connor Rankin, Brian Williams and Parker Bowles. The line has 11 goals and nine assists since the start of the second half of the season and both Williams and Rankin have scored a point in each game after the winter break. These two teams have met twice before, with the Americans earning the victory in the first game 4-2 on Nov. 10 in Kennewick while the Blazers won the second meeting 3-2 on Nov. 30 in Kamloops. The Blazers have a three game win streak against the Americans in Kamloops.
Players to Watch
LW Kale Kessy: The 20-year-old recently joined the Blazers and scored two goals in his debut with Kamloops in a 6-1 win over Seattle.
D Sam Grist: The former Tri-City American has played well since being traded to Kamloops in October, recording a +24 rating and scoring three goals and 10 assists.
D Michal Plutnar: The 18-year-old is leading the team in plus/minus at +18 and scored the game winning goal against Victoria with 0.3 seconds in overtime.
C Marcus Messier: Messier came back from an injury on New Year’s Eve and scored a goal and had an assist in the Americans win over Victoria last Friday.
Keys to the Game
North of the Border: Tri-City has a 12-8-0-1 record on the road this season, but that includes a 2-3 record on the road against the B.C. Division. The team has had trouble in Kamloops lately, bringing a three game losing streak into this game. Kamloops has almost been unbeatable in the Interior Savings Centre, recording a 16-2-1-1 record and has outscored their opponents 84-43 at home while the Americans have barely outscored their opponents on the road 59-57.
Three-Headed Monster: JC Lipon, Colin Smith, and Tim Bozon are three of the top six scorers in the league. The first game was stellar defensively, as Justin Hamonic, Mitch Topping, Wil Tomchuk and Zachary Yuen played well keeping the big three out of their usual rhythm. The last game was the same story as they kept them in check, but had a defensive lapse at the end of the game to allow Chase Souto to score the game winning goal. If the Americans can keep up the solid defensive play against the Blazers, they have a good chance of leaving with a win.
Kamloops: Jan. 11 at Prince George
Tri-City: Jan. 11 at Kelowna