Tri-City Americans season comes to an end with 4-1 loss

March 28, 2014 

ROCKETS - TRI-CITY 1 GARY NYLANDER/The Daily Courier Kelowna Rockets, Tvrdon Marek skates past Tri-City Americans Parker Wotherspoon during first period WHL action at Prospera Place on Friday evening. Game five of the first round.

GARY NYLANDER — SPECIAL TO THE TRI-CITY HERALD

The Tri-City Americans season ended Friday night, falling short in their bid to extend their first-round series with Kelowna.

Marek Tvrdon had two goals as the Rockets beat the Americans 4-1 victory before a crowd of 4,875 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia.

“The only disappointing thing is we got to play so little together healthy,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. “We played every game hard, and every game we had a chance to win. It wasn’t for lack of effort. I’m proud of how we played.”

Kelowna, ranked No. 1 in the CHL for 11 consecutive weeks, won the series 4-1 and advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, where it will face the winner of the Seattle-Everett series, which the Thunderbirds lead 3-1.

“It was a tough series,” Kelowna coach Ryan Huska told the Daily Courier. “It was good for us that we were pushed and tested the way we were. Tri-City played very hard; none of the games were easy games by any stretch of the imagination.”

Portland and Victoria will square off in the other semifinal. The Winterhawks swept Vancouver, while the Royals swept Spokane.

The Americans, who had pulled within 2-1 in the second period, failed to get the puck past Kelowna goalie Jordon Cooke in the third — but not for lack of trying.

Lucas Nickles’ one-timer from the top of the left circle was gobbled up by Cooke’s glove at 6:57, Jessey Astles was turned away by his former teammate at 7:58, and Jackson Playfair came up empty at 9:05.

Tri-City goalie Eric Comrie held down the fort at the other end as best he could, stopping eight of Kelowna’s 10 shots in the third.

Tvrdon scored just 12 seconds into a power play to take a 3-1 lead at 13:24, and Rourke Chartier took advantage of a Tri-City turnover to give the Rockets a 4-1 lead at 14:40.

Comrie finished with 34 saves.

“We had two really great chances to tie it up, then there was a questionable call (on Astles) and they got one on the power play,” Hiller said. “We had good momentum until then.”

The Rockets held a 1-0 lead after the first period, and helped themselves to a 2-0 lead at 13:05 of the second with a goal by Tvrdon.

Rourke Chartier’s shot from the slot rang off the cross bar and Tvrdon was there for the rebound and his third goal of the series.

The Americans struck back at 17:42, getting a boost from their struggling power play.

Tri-City was 1-for-17 in the series on the man advantage before Kelowna’s Mitch Wheaton went to the box for hooking at 17:18.

Phil Tot, down along the goal line to the left of Cooke, fed Parker Bowles cutting to net. Bowles netted his first playoff goal this season to cut the Rockets' lead in half.

Adding a bit of drama to the second, Tri-City’s Josh Thrower dropped gloves at 13:59 with Tyrell Goulbourne — one of the toughest players in the league. The two exchanged blows in what could be called a draw.

Kelowna used its transition game to take a 1-0 lead early in the first period.

Cole Linaker brought the puck up the ice to the right of Comrie, then fed Carter Rigby in the middle of the slot with a backhanded pass. Rigby’s quick shot beat Comrie at 6:55 for his first goal of the series.

Comrie turned aside 16 of 17 shots in the first to keep the Americans within reach.

The Rockets’ stingy defense and precision puck control limited the Americans to seven shots on goal in the first period. Parker Bowles had two quality chances early on, but Cooke didn’t have to work too hard to keep his team on top.

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