Ams top Kelowna, pull within 2-1 in series

March 25, 2014 

This series is not over yet.

The Tri-City Americans scored three goals in a span of 3:23 in the second period and held on for a 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets before a crowd of 2,010 at Toyota Center.

“There are a lot of young guys in our room and it’s important for them to get that first playoff win, and against a very good team,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. “I thought (Kelowna) came out hard early and we were on our heels. Once we got one, and then two, things turned around for us.”

The Rocket still lead the best-of-7 Western Conference first-round series 2-1, but Tri-City’s win extends the series to a Game 5 on Friday back at Prospera Place. Game 4 is today at Toyota Center.

“I thought they played really well all night long,” Kelowna coach Ryan Huska said of the Americans. “We have had a lot of games where we have come back. We had a lapse in the second and that cost us.”

It was the first playoff win for Americans goalie Eric Comrie, who stopped 52 of 55 shots.

“There were quite a bit shots, but good players are going to get their chances,” Comrie said. “(Kelowna) did a good job getting traffic in front of the net, but we did a good job keeping things to the outside, which made it easy for me.”

Kelowna, whose last playoff win at Toyota Center was April 3, 2010, trailed 3-0 after 40 minutes, but the Rockets turned on the afterburners in the third period.

Their relentless pursuit of the puck resulted in a goal by Myles Bell at 7:22, who beat Comrie from the high slot.

Kelowna made it a 3-2 game at 14:05 on the power play as Justin Kirkland redirected a shot from the point by Madison Bowey.

The Rockets may had made a dent in Tri-City’s lead, but the Americans weren’t done.

With just less than 3 minutes left in the game, the Americans forced a turnover by Kelowna’s Rourke Chartier and Justin Gutierrez buried the puck at 17:07 for a 4-2 lead.

With time running out and the Rockets on a power play, they pulled goalie Jordon Cooke for an extra attacker and pulled within 4-3 with a goal by Marek Tvrdon at 18:57.

Kelowna pulled Cooke again with 44 seconds remaining, but couldn’t get the equalizer as Tri-City defensemen Justin Hamonic and Parker Wotherspoon trapped the puck on the back wall behind Comrie the last 10 seconds of the game.

“I liked the way we played in the third and pushed back,” Huska said. “That was important for us.”

After going 35 minutes, 43 seconds with no scoring, the game took an Americans’ twist that had Tri-City scoring three goals in a span of 3:23 for a 3-0 lead after two periods.

With the puck in a scrum along the left boards, Parker Bowles dug it out, threaded it through Kelowna defenseman’s Madison Bowey’s skates to Jessey Astles. Astles, who was denied earlier in the period, ripped the puck top shelf on Jordan Cooke for a 1-1-0 lead at 15:43.

“Asty’s goal was a good example of never giving up on the puck,” Hiller said. “Bowles stayed with it and finally poked it to Asty.”

Justin Gutierrez set up the Americans’ second goal, spinning Kelowna’s Ryan Olsen in circles in the left corner before send the puck to Phil Tot, who beat Cooke at 16:51.

“I think most of the guys know Gutz is good working along the wall,” Tot said. “I found a lane, he found me and I finished it off. Their defense is one of the best in the league. It takes a lot of hard work to score against them.”

Tri-City made it 3-0 at 19:06 as Brian Williams, off a nice feed by Tot, scored with 53.3 seconds left in the period.

In a fast-paced first period, both goalies earned their keep as Comrie stopped all 16 Kelowna shots, while Cooke, tested with only nine shots, had to make a couple of dandy saves to keep the game scoreless.

Tri-City’s penalty kill was at peak performance in the first period, allowing just one shot on goal over two Kelowna power plays.

The Americans’ best scoring chances came at 12:20 with a short-handed breakaway by Rodney Southam, then at 17:44, when Astles got loose and Cooke had to made back-to-back saves on his former teammate.

The Rockets kept Comrie busy, but their best scoring chance came at 14:12 when Tyrell Goulbourne stole the puck in the neutral zone and he and Ryan Olsen went in unchallenged against Comrie.

Goulbourne was to the left of Comrie when he sent the puck cross-ice to Olsen at the right post. Olsen had an open net behind Comrie — so he thought. Comrie slid across the crease and stonewalled Olsen.

“I anticipated that,” Comrie said of the pass. “(Goulbourne) made a move to me that he would pass. I was able to get over and make the save.”

Hiller was not surprised by Comrie’s performance.

“Just another walk in the park for him,” Hiller said. “We gave him a few times this year to get ready for the playoffs.”

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