Monday, February 27, 2012

This February is Shinn-uary in WHL

Brendan Shinnimin (24) of the Tri-City Americans has owned the
month of February in the WHL.

(Photo by John Allen / AridAcres.com)
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
You will have to excuse Brendan Shinnimin if there are tears in his eyes when February comes to an end on Wednesday night.
“When I started scoring a bunch of goals,” the Tri-City Americans’ 20-year-old forward said Monday evening, “I thought I might as well keep shooting.”
He has done exactly that; in fact, the Winnipeg native has shot his way to the top of the WHL scoring race.
That’s what happens when you put up 41 points in a month. That’s right! He has 23 goals and 18 assists in 13 games this month. And there still is one game to be played.
In his latest performance, Shinnimin scored the game’s first four goals and set up the other as the Americans beat the host Seattle Thunderbirds 5-1 on Sunday night.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” Shinnimin said. “I’m just shooting the puck and it’s going in right now.”
Has he done anything differently?
“I’m just trying to play a pro style of game and everything is falling into place,” he said. “I’ve been looking to shoot a lot.”
He has scored goals in 10 straight games, with 21 goals in that stretch.
In his last four games, he has 19 points, 11 of them goals. That includes Sunday’s four-goal game as well as two earlier three-goal efforts.
A couple of weeks ago, head coach Jim Hiller decided to put his three top guns — Shinnimin, Adam Hughesman, another 20-year-old from Winnipeg, and Patrick Holland, a 19-year-old from Lethbridge — on the same line.
The three had played together before, on the power play or perhaps late in games when the Americans were down a goal or two.
“This is the first time we’ve actually played full games together,” Shinnimin said.
The result has been, to say the least, magic.
As Shinnimin put it: “Yeah . . . we’re playing good hockey. We mix pretty well together. Obviously, we’ve been good lately.”
Hughesman, who went over the 100-point plateau on the weekend, and Shinnimin have been teammates since they were seven or eight years of age. Holland has moved in and made like he wants to stay.
“Hollie is a great player . . . a top prospect,” Shinnimin said of Holland, whose NHL rights were dealt by the Calgary Flames to the Montreal Canadiens earlier this season. “He’s pretty under-rated.”
The line, in its last five games, has combined for 53 points, including 21 goals.
On the season, Holland has 95 points, including a WHL-leading 72 assists. He has 18 points, including 15 assists, in his last five games. All told, he has at least a point in each of his last 10 games.
Hughesman, with 101 points, has 14 points, including five goals, in his last five games. Overall, he is on a six-game point streak.
All of which pales when compared to Shinnimin, who admitted that he got off to something of a slow start. In fact, when October ended, he had 14 points in 14 games.
He now has 52 goals, one off the WHL lead. He also has 115 points and a 10-point lead atop the WHL scoring race.
A week ago, Shinnimin, who has been to NHL camps with the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes but is unsigned, and the Americans were preparing to play host to the Everett Silvertips.
“I think I needed four points to get to 100,” he recalled. “The guys were joking before the game that maybe I’d get there that night. I didn’t think I’d get to 100 and I ended up getting six points. I’ve just kept the ball rolling.
“The last four games I’ve got 19 points so you never know what’s going to happen. I wish this month would never end, but it has to come to an end eventually.”
The hot streak couldn’t have come at a better time, too.
The Americans (44-15-3), who close out the month at home to the Thunderbirds tonight, have won six straight games and moved back into first place in the overall standings, one point ahead of the Kamloops Blazers (43-15-4) and Portland Winterhawks (43-15-4). The Blazers and Winterhawks will tangle tonight in Portland.
On Friday, while the Blazers are at home to the Kelowna Rockets, the Winterhawks will be in Kennewick, Wash., for a date with the Americans, who are scheduled to visit Portland on Sunday.
JUST NOTES: The Blazers will finish this U.S. swing in Everett on Wednesday. . . . Kamloops is 1-1-0 against Portland. The Winterhawks are to play here on March 7. . . . The Blazers are 3-0-0 against Everett. . . . Seattle will be without F Branden Troock, who received a cross-checking major on Sunday and has been suspended for one game. Seattle D Cason Machacek, who got a game misconduct after his stick came into contact with linesman Zach Brooks on Sunday, has been suspended while the league looks into what happened.


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