The Tri-City Americans wrapped up preseason play by sweeping a home-and-home series with arch rival Spokane last weekend.
On Friday the club's youth shined in a 3-2 win at the Toyota Center. Parker AuCoin had a goal and an assist and import newcomer Juuso Valimaki scored his second of the preseason. Evan Sarthou stopped 17 shots as the Americans' stout defense - still without NHL campers Brandon Carlo and Parker Wotherspoon at the time - yielded only 19 shots in the game.
The Americans scored twice in a span of 26 seconds in the third period Saturday and held on for a 4-3 win in Spokane. Veterans littered the scoring sheet for Tri-City as Taylor Vickerman, Jordan Topping and Parker Bowles (twice) all found the back of the net. Topping and Bowles scored within seconds of each other in the third right after Dominic Zwerger gave Spokane a 3-2 lead.
Tri-City finished with a 4-2-1 record in the preseason. Spokane was 2-5-0 in preseason play.
Beck Warm and Nicholas Sanders split duties between the pipes Saturday as they continued their battle for the backup roster spot behind Sarthou. Sarthou is off in Buffalo preparing for Thursday's USA Hockey All-American Prospect Game, so the club may keep Warm and Sanders through the opening weekend. Sarthou is expected back in time for Saturday's opener.
It's a difficult decision for GM Bob Tory and staff. Both had shining moments in the preseason, but also at times showed there's a lot to be learned before tending a WHL net on a regular basis. If I had to guess I'd say the club keeps Sanders, but will call Warm back to Kennewick when Sarthou attends U.S. National Junior camp in December.
As of Wednesday night the Americans' roster sits at 26 skaters (17 forwards, 9 defenseman) and three goalies. Highly touted bantam pick Michael Rasmussen, along with Kyle Olson, Dakota Krebs and goaltender Beck Warm are the only 1999-born players still on the roster.
The Americans were without a handful of players attending NHL rookie and main training camps. Carlo (2015 second round, 37th overall) attended both camps for the Boston Bruins, while Wotherspoon (NYI, fourth round) also skated in both N.Y. Islander camps. Austyn Playfair and Maxwell James both received invites for Arizona Coyotes' camp, and both were asked back for main camp. Playfair's father, Jim, is an associate coach for the Coyotes.
Ty Comrie attended the Los Angeles Kings' rookie camp, but was returned to the Americans and played against the Chiefs last weekend. Playfair and James were released back to the Americans on Sunday.
Wotherspoon was also sent back to Tri-City from the Islanders. New York drew some attention last week after sending back top prospect Joshua Ho-Sang to the OHL after Ho-Sang was late for the beginning of training camp. I'm reading that Wotherspoon's return was nothing out of the ordinary as he wasn't going to see much ice time during the week.
That leaves only Carlo as the lone American yet to return to Kennewick. His status for the regular season opener Saturday at Spokane remains unclear. But with the Bruins' roster loaded with capable defenseman and Carlo not eligible to play in the AHL this season, his return to the Americans is imminent.
Other notes out of Kennewick: The WHL released a list this week of the 125 best players in league history. Five Americans made the list: Stu Barnes, Daymond Langkow, Brian Sakic, Carey Price, Brendan Shinniman...Shinniman is also in attendance at Coyotes main camp. Shinniman has played mostly for the Coyotes' AHL team, but got called up once for a dozen games with Arizona last season...Evan Sarthou is set to take part in Thursday's USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo. The game will be televised on the NHL Network.