In what is expected to be a low scoring series the Kelowna Rockets got the bounces when they needed them in a hard fought 3-1 win over the visiting Tri-City Americans in game one of their first round playoff series.
Myles Bell snapped a 1-1 tie with a blast from the point on a late second period power-play. Ams goaltender Eric Comrie appeared to get a piece of the shot before it settled into the back of the net.
"It was a great play by (Marek) Tvrdon, catching that puck, taking it down and settling it down on the half-wall," stated Bell of what turned out to be the game winner.
"He got it up to me and lucky enough it snuck in somehow. We had some good net front presence there by (Tyson) Baillie and (Justin) Kirkland. Those are nice ones to go in."
Rourke Chartier scored the other two goals for the Rockets including the insurance marker into an empty net in the final minute.
Chartier opened the scoring seven minutes into the game when he got his stick on Mitchell Wheaton's shot from the point. The puck deflected straight down in front of Chartier who pulled it to his left and fired into a wide open net.
Brian Williams got that one back on a power-play 47 seconds into the middle frame when he beat Jordon Cooke from the edge of the crease at the end of a pretty three-way passing play.
That goal was set up by a horrendous goaltender interference call against Tyson Baillie at the end of the first. Comrie appeared to have Baillie pinned against the crossbar and when Baillie finally broke free Comrie fell to the ice drawing the penalty and the ire of 5,827 Rockets faithful.
The Rockets were the better team out of the chute but Tri-City was able to battle back and take the play to the Rockets as the first period went on.
"I liked our start but I think we kind of plateaued from there," says Rockets head coach Ryan Huska.
"It was a tough game tonight. For the first game of a series you expect them to be good games and it definitely was tonight."
Huska says the Rockets had some trouble in the neutral zone and didn't play with the pace the normally do.
For his part, Americans head coach Jim Hiller was thrilled with the way his club played in game one.
"I thought we played pretty well defensively and I just didn't think we got a lot of puck luck offensively," says Hiller.
"I thought we generated enough and needed a bounce or two but we didn't get those tonight. I'm happy with the play but not the result. They're a good team so you have to get a bounce or two."
The last two times the Americans came into Prospera Place they were on the wrong end of a pair of lopsided scores, 7-0 and 5-1.
Hiller says Saturday's playoff opener was more representative of the way they can play than those earlier defeats.
"Both of those games we had real tough travel getting in here. That is not a fair reflection," says Hiller.
"And, we were banged up. We didn't have our 20-year-olds in. Those games we didn't put a lot of stock in them."
Hiller he will take the same effort with a little more puck luck in Sunday's second game of this series.
The Rockets outshot Tri-City 35-33 over the course of the game.
Both teams were 1-4 with the man advantage.
Game two in the series goes Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m.
Saturday's 50-50 jackpot started at at over $9,000 because a prize pot earlier in the season was not claimed. The winner walked away with $20,160 - one of if not the largest jackpot ever at a Rockets game.
The three stars Saturday were:
- 1. Rourke Chartier
- 2. Jordon Cooke
- 3. Eric Comrie