Owsley up for Chief challenge

By Annie Fowler, Herald staff writerApril 8, 2011 

People in high-pressure jobs are encouraged to plan ahead, take a break to interrupt mounting stress or get a breath of fresh air.

Those tips might work in the corporate world, but for Tri-City Americans goalie Drew Owsley, the busier he is, the better he is.

A two-year starter for the Americans, Owsley has gone from performing well during the regular season to turning out stellar performances in the playoffs.

"I think as a goalie, you have to come in with the mindset that you have to step up your game a bit," Owsley said. "Obviously you need good goaltending to win, so you have to give your team a chance to win every night and hopefully steal a couple here and there."

Owsley must be at his best come Saturday when the Amer-icans open the second round of the WHL playoffs on the road against the Spokane Chiefs.

"They are going to come out shooting," Owsley said. "That's their game plan. You have to steer pucks in the corners, don't give them too many second chances, stay focused the whole game and keep making saves. Hopefully we can get some goals at the other end. A couple of big wins up there would be huge."

In the first round, Spokane knocked off Chilliwack in five games. The Chiefs averaged 50 shots per game, a statistic that does not worry Owsley.

"When you see more shots, it's easier to play than when you get 20," he said. "They have a really good power play, and Donnie (Don Nachbaur) is a great coach. We expect them to come out hitting and with lots of shots. I think we have to weather the storm a bit the first 10 minutes in Spokane and we'll be OK."

The Chiefs won the season series against the Americans 7-5, but Spokane was 2-5 against Tri-City when Owsley was in net. The Lethbridge, Alberta, native was 36-17-1-1 with a 2.77 goals against average and a .912 save percentage during the regular season.

"Those three games or whatever it was, were tough to watch from the stands," said Owsley, who missed nine games because of a knee injury. "I don't think they have seen our full team for a while now. I'm biased a bit, but until somebody beats us, we are still the Western Conference champions. It will be a good series. I'm excited to get going. It has been a long break for us."

The Americans swept Vancouver in the first round and have been idle since March 30. Owsley had a 1.38 goals against average and a .939 save percentage against the Giants.

"I was seeing the puck pretty well," Owsley said. "Our penalty kill was really good. We didn't give them many second chances or give them much off the rush. We have to try to keep doing that against Spokane."

Last season, his first as a starter, Owsley finished 33-11-1-1 with a 2.51 GAA and a .918 save percentage. In the playoffs, he stepped up his game with a 2.47 GAA and a .921 save percentage.

Owsley, last year's Western Conference finals MVP, was 12-5 in the playoffs with a sterling 2.14 GAA and a .931 save percentage before the Americans ran into the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL finals.

During that series, he looked vulnerable. He's not planning on a repeat performance.

"I had never really played on a stage like that before with 15,000 people or whatever it was in Calgary," Owsley said. "I didn't start off very good in that first game, and it snowballed from there. I don't think anything was different in my game. I just think after that first game, my confidence wasn't real great. You have to be even keel throughout the playoffs, and I think that will help this year."

w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; afowler@tricityherald.com

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