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Tri-City Americans notebook: Stewart adds needed boost to lineup

Despite losing to Spokane in the annual New Year's Eve game, the Ams are starting to put the pieces together for a playoff run.

Tri-City American goaltender Nick Sanders got back-to-back starts for the first time this season last week.
Tri-City American goaltender Nick Sanders got back-to-back starts for the first time this season last week.
Ben Nelms/Getty Images

Drawing on memories of Tri-City's hockey past by donning the classic black and yellow uniforms, the Tri-City Americans couldn't overcome arch rival Spokane for the third straight New Year's Eve.

Parker Bowles missed on a penalty shot in the second period with the game tied at 1, and Spokane used the momentum to erupt for five straight goals on the way to a 5-2 win.

It was the third straight win for the Chiefs over Tri-City on New Year's Eve. The two teams have played each other on New Year's Eve in Kennewick every year of the Americans' existence, and is always Tri-City's most-attended game each year.

Despite the loss to Spokane, the week was very successful for Tri-City. Mackenze Stewart made his Americans debut and was very impressive in a win over Portland.

Here's a quick recap of the week............................

Stewart impresses in win over Portland

Mackenze Stewart made an immediate impact in his first game as an American. While his name didn't show up on the scoresheet, he made his presence known in other ways that directly lead to Tri-City's 5-1 win over Portland on Tuesday.

Sporting the new number 3, Stewart had a great scoring chance, threw a big hit and drew a penalty. And that was just in his first three shifts.

Stewart drew another penalty later in the game and most certainly drew the attention of his teammates for his gritty play.

Beau McCue (12) got things going on the power play in the second after a scoreless first period. The teams were even at 1 heading into the third before the Ams took over. McCue's (13) second of the game gave Tri-City the lead for good only 1:39 into the period. Vladislav Lukin (10) padded the lead before Parker Wotherspoon (7) and Jordan Topping (15) added power play goals as Portland lost its composure and discipline down the stretch.

Nick Sanders got the win in goal, stopping 22 of 23 shots.

Ams can't overcome rival Chiefs on NYE

Parker Bowles had a penalty shot and the chance to give Tri-City a 2-1 lead and send the New Year's Eve capacity-crowd into a frenzy.

Instead, Spokane goalie Tyson Verhelst stole the show, sparking Spokane to five straight goals and a 5-2 win. Keanu Yamamoto scored twice as Spokane grabbed a 4-1 lead by the end of the second.

Bowles did score (21, 22) both the Tri-City goals, but it's the one his missed that will haunt him after that night.

Starting in back-to-back games for the first time this season, Sanders stopped 32 of 37 shots.

Bowles lifts Ams over short-handed Thunderbirds

Time and time again, when the Americans need an answer, that answer has come from the 20-year-old Bowles. Saturday in Kent, Bowles was at it again.

Reeling from the loss to Spokane, Bowles potted a pair (24) and Evan Sarthou bounced back in goal to help Tri-City win 4-2.

Seattle may have been without key forwards Mathew Barzal, Alexander True and Scott Eansor (World Juniors). But a win is a win and when the season nears completion they all look the same.

Austyn Playfair scored his first of the year as Tri-City opened an early 2-0 lead. Seattle answered before the period ended but Bowles was determined to make sure the undermanned Thunderbirds would never take the lead.

After two games off, Sarthou was solid between the pipes to pick up the win. He stopped 27 shots.

Standings

Tri-City now sits at 16-20-2-0 (34 points), seven points behind Portland (20-17-1-0), nine behind Spokane (19-15-3-2) and Seattle (20-14-3-0) and 12 points behind U.S. Division-leading Everett (22-12-0-2). The Ams are 10th (last place) in the Western Conference, one point behind 9th-place Vancouver (15-20-3-2) and seven points behind Portland in the playoff race. The Giants have played two more games than Tri-City. Kamloops (18-14-4-1) has begun to pull away in 7th place with 41 points.

Upcoming

The Ams head to British Columbia for four games this week, beginning with a two-game set in Victoria on Tuesday and Wednesday. From there they head east to Kamloops on Friday and Kelowna on Saturday before returning to Kennewick.

On the mend

Overager Brian Williams was recently added to the injury list with a lower-body injury and his timetable is unknown. Williams hasn't played since the holiday break, and his status remains unknown as the Ams now carry four 20-year-olds with the recent addition of Mackenze Stewart. Defenseman Brendan O'Reilly is still expected back this season, but not for another few weeks.

Carlo named top Team USA player vs. Denmark

Ams defenseman Brandon Carlo (Boston Bruins 2nd-round pick) was named Team USA's top player for his performance in Thursday's 4-1 win over Denmark. Carlo also added an assist on Saturday in Team USA's 7-0 win over Czech Republic. Carlo has played well throughout the tournament on Team USA's top defensive pairing along with captain Zach Werenski.