The Western Hockey League's trade deadline came and went on Sunday, and the Tri-City Americans stood pat with no moves.
The lone trade made recently by GM Bob Tory was the move to acquire over-age player Mackenze Stewart from Prince Albert during the Christmas break. There was another move, although I'm still not sure if it can be classified as a trade, as the Ams parted ways with 20-year-old Brian Williams. Williams ended up with the Regina Pats for a short time, then was traded Sunday to Medicine Hat as part of the deal that sent star forward Cole Sanford to Regina. Reports from Tri-City and Regina didn't state what the Americans got, if anything, in return for Williams, even though it was described in reports as a trade.
Speculation among some was the team might move star defenseman Brandon Carlo. Carlo, a second-round pick of the Boston Bruins last summer, is likely playing his final WHL season and would have fetched a nice return. But Tory kept Carlo, telling noted WHL writer Gregg Drinnan recently: "He's too important for my culture and for recruiting future U.S. players." U.S-born talent has become a staple on Tory's recent rosters, and this season is no different.
With the roster set for the final half of the season, and Carlo soon returning from playing at the World Juniors in Europe, the focus can immediately return to results on the ice. The Ams had a busy week on the ice, visiting British Columbia for four games.
Here's a recap of last week's games:
Ams start B.C. trip with win over Royals
The trip began with an exciting, come-from-behind 4-3 win in a shootout. The Ams trailed 3-1 with less than 14 minutes to play but managed to tie the score and Evan Sarthou stopped all three Royal attempts in the shootout to secure the win.
Victoria jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first before Beau McCue (14) notched a power-play goal in the second as the Ams continued their recent success with the man advantage. After the Royals made it 3-1 in the third, Vladislav Lukin (11) and Tyler Sandhu (9) scored four minutes apart to quickly tie the score.
Sarthou's heroics and the lone shootout goal from Lukin were enough to walk away with two points, an impressive feat for a team without multiple forwards and its two best defenseman. Affiliate player Seth Bafaro (2015 Bantam draft pick) played in Tuesday's game but didn't record a point.
Victoria rebounds Wednesday for 6-2 win
The story was a bit different Wednesday, as Victoria bolted out to a 4-0 lead 25 minutes into the game and never looked back, skating away with a 6-2 win.
Four different Royals found the net, the first two coming against Sarthou on only seven shots. He was replaced by Nick Sanders, who didn't fare much better. They combined to allow six goals on 35 shots. Alex Forsberg completed his hat trick for Victoria with a power play goal in the third to make it 6-2.
On the bright side, rookie Nolan Yaremko potted his second of the season for Tri-City, and Morgan Geekie (5) added the other goal.
Ams fall short against Kamloops Friday
A solid performance from Sarthou wasn't enough Friday as Kamloops scored midway through the third and held on for a 3-2 win.
Beau McCue's 15th of the year from Sandhu and Lukin was the only goal of the first.
Then Kamloops 20-year-old Matt Needham took the game into his own hands. Needham opened the second with two goals in less than three minutes, then another in the third to complete the hat trick and give the Blazers the lead for good.
Dylan Coghlan (2) also scored for Tri-City, while Sarthou stopped 29 of 32 shots. The game was surprisingly clean, with each team only taking two penalties. But that can happen when teams that don't often face each other square off.
Rockets hold off Tri-City 7-5 Saturday
It didn't matter which Tri-City goalie was between the pipes against Kelowna on Saturday. The Rockets scored quickly and often en route to a wild 7-5 win as Tri-City wrapped up the B.C. swing with just two points in four games.
Jeff Rayman (3) and McCue (16) helped the Ams keep pace with Kelowna in the first, and later tied the score at four after goals from Parker Wotherspoon (8) and another from McCue (17). But penalties hurt the Ams again, with Kelowna converting twice with the man advantage to re-gain the lead. Lukin (12) drew the Ams within a goal late, but the Rockets capped the game with an empty-netter.
Sanders stopped 8 of 11 shots before giving way to Sarthou, who finished with 27 saves.
Tri-City sits at the trade deadline with a record of 17-23-2-0 (36 points), last in the Western Conference. They are 6 points behind Portland (20-19-2-0), 7 points behind Spokane (19-17-3-2), 11 behind Seattle (22-14-3-0) and 15 behind division-leading Everett (24-12-1-2). The Ams are 3 points behind Vancouver (17-21-3-2, 9th place in Western Conference) and 6 behind Portland (8th in Western Conference) in the race for the playoffs.
Tri-City hosts Eastern Conference foes Saskatoon (15-23-3-0, 33 points, 5th in East Division) on Friday and Regina (18-18-3-3, 42 points, 4th in East Division) on Saturday for the only games of the week.
On the mend
Defenseman Juuso Valimaki missed all four games of the B.C. road trip with an upper-body injury. He could be back for this weekend's games. Taylor Vickerman was shut down for the season with an upper-body injury, a big disappointment for the local product. A big addition to the lineup is the impending return of defenseman Brendan O'Reilly. O'Reilly has been out with an upper-body injury since November 3rd and has only appeared in 15 games this season. Max James, though not injured, returned to the lineup after serving a suspension for his actions against Spokane on New Year's Eve.