The Tri-City Americans were able to shut down Kelowna’s top-ranked power play Wednesday night, but the Rockets did just fine at even strength.
Rourke Chartier scored twice and Kelowna scored three unanswered goals in the third period to break open a 1-1 game en route to a 4-1 victory before a crowd of 3,321 at Toyota Center.
“No one wants to lose two in a row,” said Chartier, whose Rockets dropped a pair of games to Portland last weekend. “We came down here and gave it an extra effort.”
The Rockets, who have taken 2 of 3 games from the Americans this season, lead the Western Hockey League with an impressive 22-2-3-0 record.
Tri-City (14-11-0-0, 28 points) dropped its second in a row and fell from second to third in the U.S. Division standings – seven points back of Everett and one behind Spokane. The Americans will host Lethbridge on Friday and Portland on Saturday.
“We can’t take the penalties we took the first half of the game,” said Tri-City coach Mike Williamson. “Even though we kept them off the board, they gained momentum wore us out.”
The Rockets came into the game with their power play clicking along at 29.7 percent, with 38 goals. Wednesday, they were 0-for-6 with 10 shots on goal.The Americans’ penalty kill has negated 35 consecutive power plays on home ice.
“They worked hard,” Chartier said of the Americans’ penalty kill. “We didn’t score on the power play, but we found ways to score - 5-on-5 and shorthanded.”
After a scoreless first period, the Rockets were the first to find the net in the second. After two failed power plays, the Rockets scored at even strength as Chartier scored his 27th goal of the season at 14:56.
The Americans, who killed off six Kelowna power plays before getting one of their own, made good on the man advantage as Beau McCue took a pass from Richard Nejezchleb on the baseline and beat Jackson Whistle from the top of the face-off circles with 39 seconds left in the period.
Parker Bowles had a chance to put the Americans on the board at 13:45, reeling in a clearing pass from Brandon Carlo as he stepped out of the penalty box, and went in alone on Whistle. But Bowles’ shot went off Whistle’s right pad and the game remained scoreless.
In the third, Chartier scored his second of the night just 19 seconds into the period, while Tyson Baillie gave the Rockets a 3-1 lead at 9:38. Tyrell Goulbourne made it 4-1 with a short-handed goal at 10:56.
“At 1-1, we were hungry,” Williamson said. “We went out and competed hard, but every time we had a breakdown, it ended up in the back of our net. Offensively, we did a good job, we just need to get more second chances.”
The Rockets controlled the first period, outshooting the Americans 13-6, but they had nothing to show for it.
Kelowna went on a on a four-minute power play at 5:05 of the period, but managed just four shots as the Americans’ penalty kill blocked shots and had a stick in every lane.
Just two minutes after getting back to 5-on-5, Tri-City defenseman Justin Hamonic was called for holding after he prevented Nick Merkley from going in alone on Tri-City goalie Eric Comrie.
Again, the Tri-City penalty kill was stellar, allowing two shots on goal.
The Americans’ best scoring chance came with 2:08 left in the period, but Taylor Vickerman’s shot went off Whistle’s pads.
Whistle finished with 26 saves as the Rockets outshot the Americans 34-27.
Comrie finished with 30 saves in suffering just his second loss on home ice.
Notes: The Vancouver Giants fired coach Troy Ward on Wednesday in the midst of the team’s Eastern road swing. Assistant coach Matt Erhart was named the club’s interim coach. The Giants were 9-16-0-0 under Ward – the worst record in the Western Conference. Kelowna F Rodney Southam played his first game against his former team. He has one goal, one assist and five fighting majors in nine game with the Rockets. The Rockets have been playing short-handed for a time, with Austin Glover (upper body), Justin Kirkland (upper body), Mitchell Wheaton (upper body), Tanner Wishnowski (upper body), Dillon Dube (lower body) and Dalton Yorke (upper body) on the injured list.
ROCKETS 4, AMERICANS 1
Kelowna 0 1 3 - 4
Tri-City 0 1 0 - 1
First – No scoring. Penalties – Bowles, TC, double minor (high-sticking), 5:05; Hamonic, TC (holding), 10:56.
Second – 1, Kel, Chartier 27 (Merkley), 14:56. 2, TC, McCue 11 (Nejezchleb, T.Comrie), 19:21 (pp). Penalties – Gutierrez, TC (high-sticking), :28; Bowles, TC (slashing), 11:37; Bowles, TC (slashing), 16:45; Coughlin, Kel (delay of game), 19:12.
Third – 3, Kel, Chartier 28 (Gatenby, Goulbourne), :19. 4, Kel, Baillie 19 (Lind, Lees), 9:38. 5, Kel, Goulbourne 12, 10:56. Penalties – Baillie, Kel (roughing), 6:29; Soustal, Kel (hooking), 10:12.
Shots – Kel 13-15-6 - 34. TC 6-9-12 - 37. Power plays – Kel 0-6. TC 1-3. Goalies – Kel, Whistle 17-2-3-0 (27 shots-26 saves). TC, Comrie 12-8-0-0 (34-30). Referees – Mike Campbell and Trevor Shivley. A – 3,321.