Ams fall into series tie with Kelowna after OT loss

By Annie Fowler, Herald staff writerApril 9, 2009 

  • WHL Western Conference semifinal
    Kelowna Rockets vs. Tri-City Americans
    Best-of-7 series, Rockets win 4-2
    Game 1: Americans win at home, 4-3
    Game 2: Americans win at home, 3-2
    Game 3: Rockets win at home, 7-2
    Game 4: Rockets win at home, 4-3 OT
    Game 5: Rockets win on road, 5-2
    Game 6: Rockets win at home, 6-2

KELOWNA, British Columbia -- Jamie Benn made sure the Kelowna Rockets would not have to go to Toyota Center with the series on the line.

Benn took a pass from Cody Almond on the left wing and beat Tri-City goaltender Chet Pickard at the left post at 12:52 of overtime on the power play to rally the Rockets to a 4-3 victory Wednesday night at Prospera Place to tie their WHL Western Conference semifinal series at 2-2.

"I didn't look at the net, I just played the puck," said Benn, who also had three assists. "Chet is a great goaltender. I was lucky."

Game 5 of the best-of-7 series is Friday night at Toyota Center, a place where the Rockets have not won since Feb. 25, 2006 -- a string of nine straight losses, including this year's playoffs.

The Rockets, who were an impressive 7-for-14 on the power play on home ice the last two games, were awarded the power play in overtime when Riley McIntosh was called for hooking at 11:46.

The Americans weathered the storm for nearly a minute when Pickard reached across the mouth of the goal and made a highlight-reel glove save on a shot by Mikael Backlund, but he couldn't stop Benn 30 seconds later.

"In my mind, that was probably the save of the year," said Kelowna coach Ryan Huska. "You aren't supposed to make saves like that, but that's why he is who he is. We're back on even ground, but if we are going to have any success in Tri-City, we have to play for 60 minutes. (Toyota Center) is the toughest building to play in in the league."

Tri-City coach Don Nachbaur, whose team battled back from a 7-2 loss in Game 3 on Tuesday, did not agree with the penalty called in overtime.

"The difference was the calls," Nachbaur said. "That was ridiculous. It was going back and forth on both sides. We played our asses off. It shouldn't have been decided on a call like that. It's pretty disappointing."

Kelowna, trailing at home for the first time in the playoffs entering the third period, rallied from a 2-1 deficit to tie the at 2 with a goal by Almond at 2:41.

The Americans took back the lead seven minutes later when Justin Feser picked up a rebound and buried the puck behind Kelowna goalie Mark Guggenberger on the power play.

Kelowna's Tyler Myers, who failed to clear the puck when Feser scored, redeemed himself a minute later, gathering a rebound in the slot and lifting the puck in the top corner of the net to tie the game at 3.

Backlund had a golden opportunity to give the Rockets the lead at 14:26, being awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down by Mitch McColm. Backlund got a little too fancy, and when he tried to sweep the puck back around the front of the net, it went off Pickard's skate.

"That's my go-to shot," said Backlund, who scored the game's only goal of the first period. "Sometimes I score, but tonight he read me. That happens."

Pickard then made a key glove save on a shot by Almond with 1:08 left in regulation to keep the game tied.

The Americans, already missing Jason Reese (leg) with an injury, got Taylor Procyshen back Wednesday after he missed Tuesday's game with an undisclosed injury, but lost Mitch Fadden at 5:50 of the third when he was checked into the boards by Myers. Fadden's left arm was in a sling after the game.

When Fadden was on the ice, he gave the Americans the spark they needed in the second period.

With Tri-City trailing 1-0 early in the second period, Fadden and Myers collided to the right of Guggenberger. Fadden was the first to his feet, picking up the puck, circling behind the net and beating Guggenberger at the left post before the goalie could block the path of the puck with his skate.

The goal tied the game at 1, but more importantly, turned the momentum in favor of the Americans.

Tri-City fed off the energy and generated a 2-1 lead at 13:22 as Jordan Messier redirected a shot from the point by McColm into the net.

"I'm proud of every guy," Procyshen said. "We have injuries in the room, we are depleted, but a bounce here or there and we are going home with a 3-1 lead. We have to go home, recoup and get back at it."

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