Kennewick, WA – The Kelowna Rockets (3-1) jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the second period, on its way to a 5-3 victory against the Tri-City Americans (1-3), avenging its Game 3 loss from Tuesday night.
Trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven, the Americans face elimination as the series heads into Game 5 on Friday in Kelowna, needing a win in order to keep its 2013-14 season alive.
The Rockets stormed out of the gates, controlling momentum for almost the entire first period, outshooting the Americans 14-5 in the opening 20 minutes. Madison Bowey opened the scoring at the 4:24 mark, taking the pass from Tyson Baillie at the side of the Americans net and putting it past Eric Comrie. Then, Cole Linaker extended the Rockets lead to 2-0 at 12:40 of the first period, trailing the play as Carter Rigby skated up the wing. Rigby fed the puck across to Linaker, who skated in alone on goal, beating Comrie blocker side.
The Americans struggled to get any offense going until the late stages of the first period, pressuring late in the period for its first score of the game. But, the team would come up empty, trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Just 1:33 into the second period, Justin Kirkland registered his second goal in as many nights, extending Kelowna’s lead to 3-0 after scoring on the rebound of Nick Merkley’s initial shot.
Then, at 9:08, Brian Williams skated through the faceoff circle to the right of the Rockets’ net and snapped the puck on goal. Officials originally ruled the puck had ricocheted off the cross bar and allowed play to continue. Then, after almost 90 seconds had elapsed, the officials reviewed the play, ruling that the puck had in fact gone in, crediting Williams with the score to make it 3-1.
But, Marek Tvrdon would restore the Rockets’ three-goal lead 4:13 later, capitalizing on a Lucas Nickles interference call.
Tri-City closed out a frantic second period with Phil Tot’s third goal in as many games, deflecting a Mitch Topping point shot at 18:27, cutting the deficit back down to two goals after 40 minutes of play.
The Americans began the third period with 1:22 of power play, as it looked to get within a goal. While the team had multiple chances on the man advantage, it never managed to put any past Jordon Cooke and the deficit remained at two goals.
Not long after the Rockets returned to full strength, the CHL’s top ranked team would regain the three-goal lead that it had built in the second period. Kris Schmidli found Baillie open on the right wing, and the forward snapped it past Comrie.
Justin Hamonic would give the Americans one last chance at a comeback, controlling the puck at the blue line and firing it past Cooke, getting Tri-City back within two goals. But, that would be as close as the Americans would get.
The Americans will travel to Kelowna in preparation of Friday evening’s Game 5 matchup against the Rockets, as Tri-City looks to avoid elimination and force Game 6 back at the Toyota Center on Saturday. Fans can catch the action live, via WHL Live, at the Americans’ official home away from home, Kimo’s in Richland.
Jack In Box Three Stars
1) Tyson Baillie, Kelowna
2) Madison Bowey, Kelowna
3) Brian Williams, Tri-City