Rockets dominant, up 2-0
If the Tri-City Americans are going to win even one game in their playoff series with the Kelowna Rockets they will have to do it on the back of goaltender Eric Comrie.
The 18-year-old Edmonton native did his part Sunday but it wasn't nearly enough as his Americans fell 3-1 to the Kelowna Rockets and now find themselves in a 2-0 hole as the best-of-seven series heads south to Kennewick, WA for games three and four.
Comrie made 44 saves and got an assist from his friendly goalpost and crossbar on three occasions to keep Tri-City in it until the bitter end.
Myles Bell with his second of the series, Ryan Olsen with the eventual game winner and Joe Gatenby with his first career WHL goal scored for the Rockets.
"(Rourke) Chartier got a nice pass out to me and I just tried to shoot it and it found its way in there," says Gatenby of the goal after the customary shaving cream face wash from teammate Tyrell Goulbourne.
"I don't know where it was going. I just tried to shoot it hard and when it went in it felt pretty nice. I went the whole season without getting one so it felt nice to get it out of the way."
Philip Tot opened the scoring the the Ams just as Madison Bowey exited the penalty box.
Parker Bowles held the puck along the right half wall and his slap pass into the slot was deflected home by Tot.
Bell got that one back on a power-play four minutes later. Marek Tvrdon found Bell at the blue line. Bell skated in near the top of the circle and leaned into a wrist shot that beat Comrie short side.
Olsen, who was robbed by Comrie on two other occasions finally beat the Tri-City netminder with a strange goal late in the opening frame.
A shot from the point hit the end board, flipped high in the air, over the net and landed just in front of the crease. Olsen pounded on the loose back and backhanded a shot past a beleaguered Comrie.
Gatenby closed out the scoring three minutes into the second.
The third period was scoreless, thanks mainly to Comrie who made several outstanding saves, in particular a glove grab off Olsen on the doorstep.
Jordon Cooke was not as busy facing only 25 shots but did make a key glove save off Justin Gutierrez late in the second.
"It was a tough game," says Olsen.
"Both teams competed really well. I think we got the better start but they didn't give up. Their goalie played outstanding but we stuck with it and came out with the win."
The Rockets have beaten Comrie five times so far in this series, four coming from long range with traffic in front of the net.
"Shots from anywhere but traffic is important. If he sees things he's going to stop things," says Rockets head coach Ryan Huska.
"They do a great job of getting in shot lanes and really clogging up the front of the net so your really have to fight to get in on them because they make it very difficult for you in front."
The Rockets take a 2-0 series lead into games three and four Tuesday and Wednesday.
"We're excited. We have the opportunity to end the series in Tri-City and that's what we want to do," says Olsen looking ahead to games three and four.
"They are going to come out hard, we know that."
Huska agrees the first 10 minutes will be critical for the Rockets in Kennewick.
"They always come out very hard in that building. The energy level in there, the noise in there, they feed off that," says Huska.
"They are a momentum team so I think they are going to come out very hard to start the game on Tuesday. We're going to have to be ready to match that and try to keep it up for 60 minutes."
Should Tri-City take one of those two, game five in the series would be back in Kelowna next Friday night.
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