Ams lose 3-1 in playoff opener

March 22, 2014 

KELOWNA, British Columbia — The Tri-City Americans may be the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, but they didn’t play like it Saturday night.

Kelowna got two goals from Rourke Chartier, and the Rockets held off the pesky Americans 3-1 before a crowd of 5,827 at Prospera Place to take a 1-0 lead in the opening game of their first-round playoff series.

“They guys are disappointed,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said in a phone interview. “They know we were right there. We could have won. We aren’t here to play, we are here to win. We showed that and we believe that.”

The best-of-7 series continues today with a 5:05 p.m. at Kelowna. The series shifts to Toyota Center on Tuesday and Wednesday for Games 3 and 4.

“I’ll take the same game tomorrow with a different result,” Hiller said. “We need to keep their chances down and create more for ourselves.”

The Americans seemed to get better as the game wore on.

Trailing 2-1 after two periods, the Americans peppered Kelowna goalie Jordon Cooke with 10 shots in the third period, and even though there were a couple of close calls for Cooke, he was able to keep the puck out of the net.

With about 2 minutes to play, the Americans pulled goalie Eric Comrie for an extra attacker, but the only goal scored came from Rourke Chartier — an empty-netter with 43.4 seconds left in the game.

“We had our chances,” Hiller said. “I thought in the first Kelowna outplayed us. In the second and third we had better chances. We just need to get better bounces. Give Kelowna credit, they played a really good game.”

Comrie, a second-team Western Conference All-Star, finished with 32 saves in his first-ever playoff game, while Cooke, a first-team All-Star, had 32 saves at the other end.

“Two All-Star goalies out there, there is a reason it is so hard to score,” Hiller said.

Tri-City never led in the game, but they were competitive for 60 minutes.

At the start of the second and down by a goal, the Americans were working on a leftover power play from the first period when they evened the score at 1-1 just 47 seconds into the action.

From the left point, rookie defenseman Parker Wotherspoon sent the puck down in the slot to Phil Tot, who slid it over to Brian Williams. Williams beat Cooke stick side for his third career playoff goal.

William’s goal breathed life into the Americans.

Jessey Astles drove the net 90 seconds later, but a sprawling save by Cooke ended the threat.

Tri-City killed off Kelowna’s third power play at 8:15, and Brandon Carlo reeled in the puck coming out of the penalty box. He had two shots on Cooke, but came up empty.

Bell would have the last word of the period, teeing up a shot from the high slot on the power play and blasting the puck through traffic and past Comrie at 17:53 to give the Rockets a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.

The Rockets opened the scoring with a goal by Chartier at 7:09.

The Americans turned the puck over in the corner to the left of Comrie and the Rockets sent it top to Mitchell Wheaton. Wheaton’s shot was tipped by Chartier, who then got the rebound and put the puck past Comrie.

Kelowna looked to take a 2-0 lead on their first power play of the game, but a shot from the point by Damon Severson went off the pipe, slid across the front of the goal line and out the other side.

With less than five minutes remaining in the first period, the Americans were working on the tail end of their first power play and looking to tie the score. Wotherspoon drove in from the blue line, but his shot was gobbled up by Cooke with 4:55 to play in the first.

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