A short-handed goal in hockey is like a pick-six in football. Both can change the game in a hurry and suck the life out of the opposing team.
Brendan Shinnimin had his first career hat trick -- including two short-handed goals in the second period -- to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 5-1 victory Thursday night over the Kelowna Rockets before a crowd of 4,847 at Toyota Center.
"It's the first game back and everyone was kind of scrambly," said Shinnimin, who also had an assist for a four-point night. "We got better as the game went along. Every game we have played them they have give us a tough game. Without the short-handed goals, it could have been a different game. Those took the wind out of their sails."
Tri-City (28-7-0-0) extended its win streak to nine games and leads the WHL with 56 points.
"It was a tough game. Kelowna played really well," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "It was a little sloppy, but it's tough after the layoff. We did enough things well. Shinny, his goals were the difference. And you have to give Willie (Mason Wilgosh) credit, he put the puck where Shinny could skate onto it."
Kelowna (14-18-2-3, 33 points), playing without coach Ryan Huska, who is an assistant with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, is 1-9 in its last 10 trips to Kennewick.
"When you are playing against a team like Tri-City, and it's 1-1, you can't give a player like Shinnimin two breakaways," said Kelowna assistant coach Dan Lambert. "That turned the game around."
The Rockets' Colton Sissons opened the second period with a power-play goal just 27 seconds into the action to knot the score at 1.
Shinnimin's first goal broke the tie at 4:05 and gave the Americans the lead for good.
Shinnimin pressured Myles Bell into a turnover at the blue line, and Mason Wilgosh fed Shinnimin up ice, who beat Adam Brown for his 18th goal of the season.
Four minutes later, Kevin Smith lost control of the puck at the Kelowna blue line, and Wilgosh again pushed the puck out to Shinnimin.
"Willie made a couple of key blocks and he fed me for breakaways," Shinnimin said. "It felt good to get the two short-handed goals and eventually the hat trick."
Shinnimin finished his natural hat trick at 5:11 of the third period, clearing up a rebound off a shot by Zach Yuen.
Shinnimin has points in nine consecutive games -- 11 goals and 11 assists.
"His last month is as good as he has ever played," Hiller said.
Rookie Brian Williams finished the scoring at 8:05, converting a power-play goal for his fourth of the season.
The Americans opened the scoring at 11:12 of the first as Shinnimin and Patrick Holland made the most of a 2-on-1 against Kelowna defender Colten Martin, with Holland scoring his 14th goal of the season.
Each team had 15 shots on goal, and Ty Rimmer made several impressive saves to keep the Rockets off the scoreboard.
Rimmer finished with 33 saves, including a breakaway by Filip Vasko at 16:23 of the second period and another by Brett Bulmer at 4:56 of the third.
"I felt pretty good out there," said Rimmer, who posted his 16th win. "They came at us hard in the first and I got into the game early. I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy playing against good players. This was a big win for us."
Notes: Kalvin Knibbs holds the Americans' team record with three short-handed goals in one game, scored Jan. 31, 1990, in a 9-6 win over Spokane at Toyota Center. Three short-handed goals also is the WHL record shared by Knibbs, Glen Goodall (Seattle, 1990), Peter Schaefer (Brandon, 1997) and Brett McLean (Kelowna, 1997). ... Tri-City played without center Connor Rankin, who broke his thumb in the game with Seattle right before Christmas break. He had a pin put in and will miss a game or two. ... Americans goalie Eric Comrie and Team Pacific beat Team West 5-2 at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Tecumseh, Ontario. Comrie finished with 12 saves. Team Pacific plays the Czech Republic today.
AMERICANS 5, ROCKETS 1
Kelowna 0 1 0 -- 1
Tri-City 1 2 2 -- 5
First -- 1, TC, Holland 14 (Shinnimin, Hughesman), 11:12. Penalties -- Topping, TC (hooking), 2:05; Smith, Kel (interference), 4:37; Feser, TC (slashing), 14:14; Chikie, Kel (hooking), 16:16; Shinnimin, TC (hooking), 18:29.
Second -- 2, Kel, Sissons 21 (Rigby, Bell), :27 (pp). 3, TC, Shinnimin 18 (Wilgosh), 4:05 (sh). 4, TC, Shinnimin 19 (Wilgosh), 8:07. Penalties -- Strmwall, TC (goaltender interference), 3:40; M.Messier, TC (slashing), 7:36; Martin, Kel (tripping), 11:45.
Third -- 5, TC, Shinnimin 20 (Yuen, Strmwall), 5:11. 6, TC, Williams 4 (Strmwall, MacMaster), 8:05 (pp). Penalties -- Bell, Kel (roughing), 3:39; Dow, TC (roughing), 3:39; Rigby, Kel (interference), 6:56; Bulmer, Kel, minor-major (boarding, fighting), 15:18; J.Messier, TC, minor-major (instigator, fighting, game misconduct), 15:18; Sissons, Kel (holding), 15:48; Donaldson, Kel, major (fighting), 19:24; Strmwall, TC, major (fighting), 19:24.
Shots -- Kel 15-10-9 -- 34. TC 15-12-15 -- 42. Power plays -- Kel 1-5. TC 1-5. Goalies -- Kel, Brown 11-16-0-1 (42 shots-37 saves). TC, Rimmer 16-4-0-0 (34-33). Referees -- Reagan Vetter and Jeff Ingram. A -- 4,847.