Americans curling through Eastern trip
Oct 19, 2012 (Tri-City Herald (Menafn - Kennewick - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --It doesn't take much to entertain a bus load of hockey players who have been on the road for 10 days.
The Regina Curling Club was the site of the Tri-City Americans' afternoon of fun Thursday. On the line -- gift cards to Tim Hortons.
That was enough motivation for Team Topping and Team Nickles to expertly send their stones down the ice toward the target at the other end and come out victorious.
"Us Canadians miss our Timmies down in the states," said Topping, whose team of Jesse Mychan and Clint Filbrandt went 3-0. "It's nice to experience that when we travel across the border."
Topping said the team looks forward to different activities on the road to take their mind off hockey for a bit.
"The schedule has been extremely busy and intense," Topping said. "Playing six games in eight nights with 50-some hours on the bus in between can take a lot out of us physically and mentally. On the other side of that coin, the guys are gelling really well on the trip. It's been huge as far as team building goes, and I think our play reflects that."
The Americans, who are nearing the end of their six-game trip through the East Division, were due a day off and a little fun after posting a 3-0-1-0 record during their first four games of the swing.
"We usually have a curling tournament every year," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, who noted that he did not play. "It's something different for the guys to do, and it's quite funny. It was a neat experience."
Tri-City (7-3-1-1, 16 points) leads the U.S. Division by one point over Portland going into tonight's game against the Regina Pats (5-5-1-0, 11 points). The Americans finish their trip Saturday at Swift Current (4-3-3-1, 12 points).
After an overtime loss to Saskatoon on Wednesday, the Americans have points in their last eight games, and Hiller is confident his team will continue to perform well.
"There's no reason not to be optimistic he said. "We played well against Saskatoon and did everything we could. There's no shame in losing when you do everything you can. We are getting some bodies back and it will be nice to get a little energy in there. Malte (Strmwall) will provide a little more offense and Mitch is solid on the back end. It will be good to have them back."
Topping is ready to be back on the ice after taking a hit in the back against Brandon last Saturday. He has missed the last three games.
"I'm super anxious to get back out there with the guys," Topping said. "It's a bummer traveling this far to miss games, but (trainer) Darcy (Ewanchuk) and the coaching staff have been great in helping me recover to ensure I'm at my best when I come back."
While Topping and Strmwall still are probable for tonight's game, the Americans have gotten steady play from goalie Eric Comrie and prospect Rodney Southam, who signed with the team Monday, stepped into the lineup Wednesday against Saskatoon, and picked up his first WHL point with an assist on Lucas Nickles' first-period goal.
"Rodney handled himself very well," Hiller said. "He is a good offensive player and had a couple of shots on goal. Eric has made big saves early and allowed us get our feet under us."
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