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Ams Coming Together

What has gotten into the Tri City Americans?  A team that clinched a wild card playoff birth in the final few games.  The Ams have won 8 straight playoffs games sweeping the top team in U.S. Division the Kelowna Rockets, and then also dominating the Victoria Royals in four straight contests.  The fact that the Americans have made the Conference Finals probably isn’t the most surprising part, but the dominating fashion in which they are doing it.  They opened up with a 5-0 win against the Kelowna rockets in route to the series sweep.  Against Victoria, they put up a 7-0 game 1, 4-1 game 2, and up 5-0 in the third period of game 3 before the Royals put up some last minute goals.

Have they recruited some NHL players to help them out?  Not quite, but some of their players are playing out of their mind, and are definitely catching the eyes of teams around the nation. Michael Rasmussen has done typical Rasmussen things with 10 goals and is finding other players with 14 assists.  Having the other weapons has been huge, others converting has taken the pressure of him and allows him to get more space and moves the defense over to the other shooters.  After missing almost half of the games during the regular season, having him healthy has been huge.  Michael put up a hat trick in game 2 against Victoria in a 4-1 win on the road that gave the Americans a commanding 2-0 lead in the series coming back to the Toyota Center.  In game 3 he put up 4 points to help put the series out of reach for the Royals.

The resurgence of Morgan Geekie has been an unexpected advantage for the Ams.  After scoring 30 goals in 68 games during the season, Geekie has netted 15 goals in the 8 playoffs games leading the WHL along with 9 assists.  He has been on fire, in game 3 against Victoria, Geekie had a hat trick along with Rasmussen’s 4 points in their 6-5 win.  Defenseman Jake Been has added 13 assists to really help speed the game up and put the defense on their heals.

The Ams power play has also improved, scoring on only twenty-five percent during the season and scoring and nearly fifty percent during the playoffs.  What lies ahead for the Ams is the U.S. Division champ Everett Silvertips.  Ams have dropped 6 of 9 gams to the Silvertips so they are going have to continue their offensive onslaught.  Game 1 will be in Everett this Friday.

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Zags Escape

The Gonzaga Bulldogs came into Thursday’s matchup against UNC Greensboro as a heavy favorite to beat the Spartans, but the Zags got all they could handle.  After having control for much of the game the Zags lost the lead with under 2 minutes to play, but Zach Norvell Jr. was able to ice the game with a late three and the zags escaped 68-64.

After making it all the way to the National Championship a year ago before falling short to North Carolina, the Zags have some young new faces and are looking to make a run deep into the tournament.  They started their road in Boise with an arena full of Gonzaga fans, but it took a some time in the early going for them to get into their flow.  Gonzaga went on a 9-2 run to end the half and give the Zags some comfort with a 32-23 lead.

The Spartans had some fight left in the 2nd half, Zags held a 46-36 lead with just under 15 minutes to go in the game before UNC Greeensboro made their run.  The Spartans chipped away at the lead of the bulldogs lead throughout the 2nd half.  UNC Greensboro tied the game at 58 with 4:55 to go when Demetrius Troy buried a jumper.  Troy tied it again at 62, then after two successful free throws by Norvell Jr, Jordy Kurpier gave the Spartans the lead 64-62 with 1:49 to play.

The tension built in Taco Bell Arena, as the Zags were looking to avoid the huge upset.  Josh Perkins shook a defender and buried the jumper at the top of the key to tie the game at 64.  The next Gonzaga possession, Zach Norvell Jr. put the Bulldogs up for good with a 3 pointer from the wing with 23 seconds remaining.  With 13 seconds to go Marvin Smith from UNC Greensboro saw his tying 3 pointer spin out and the Zags held on and avioid the 13 vs. 4 scare in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.   We feel very fortunate to advance and to win, but at the same time I’m proud of how my guys just hung with it,” Head Coach Mark Few said following the game.

The Zags face Ohio State on Saturday who they beat in the PK80 tournament by 27, so they are looking to have the same kind of output they  had back in November.  Gonzaga is the only team in the last ten years to have ten straight first round wins in the NCAA tournament. 

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