Kelowna Learning the Tri-City Americans Just Won’t “Go Away!” – Series Continues Friday
The #1 team in the Canadian Hockey League is discovering it's getting hard to finish off the Americans.
Although the Americans are down 3-1 in the best of seven WHL First-Round playoff series, the Rockets have to be thinking, "what do we have to do to knock these guys out?"
The Americans have been like the guy in the movies who gets in a fight, gets decked, then keeps standing back up and keeps coming. Kelowna is perhaps one of the best teams the WHL and CHL have seen in years.
The Rockets went 57-11-0-4 during the regular season (wins-losses-overtime losses-shootout losses) and Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Americans was only their 12th loss in the last 76 games, counting playoffs! They've been the #1 ranked team in the 60-team CHL for most of the entire season.
Prior to this series, the Americans were 0-4 vs. Kelowna in the regular season, including a tough 7-0 loss in Prospera Place earlier in March. After the way the Am's squeaked into the 8th and final playoff slot, some experts predicted an easy sweep for the Rockets.
But it hasn't been that way. The first two games last weekend will go on the books as 3-1 victories for the Rockets, but they were basically 2-1 games that went down to the wire. In both contests, Tri-City pulled goalie Eric Comrie for an extra attacker, and Kelowna got empty-net goals with less than :45 seconds left in both games. The Americans game them fits and the games could have gone either way.
Then came the game Tuesday, when the Am's buried 3 goals in less than 8 minutes in the 2nd. period, then hung on for a 4-3 win behind the incredible 52 saves by Comrie. Wednesday, the Rockets jumped to an early 3-0 lead in the first, then watched as the Americans relentlessly kept coming back and back, before losing 5-3.
The series has been intense, physical, and the Americans haven't blinked. Wednesday night, even with a 4-2 lead late in the second period, the frustration of the Rockets players was visible. Trailing 5-2 in the third, Justin Hamonic buried a shot for the Americans to bring it to 5-3, then the Am's skated the last 2:20 with an empty net and had several GOOD attempts that either hit the post or were turned away by the Rocket's netminder Jordon Cooke.
Now the Americans are on the bus, making their way to Kelowna for game 5 Friday. It will be a national TV game in Canada, with a 7:30 start. If the Rockets win and advance, they - and much of the league - will have seen the Americans put up as good a fight as any team against such a high caliber opponent. They've already been tested far beyond what many outside the Tri-Cities expected they would get.
But we knew from watching this group of Americans that despite their youth, injuries and other adversities this season, they're one of the most resilient and toughest Tri-City teams we've seen in a long time.
And as Kelowna awaits the 7:30 puck drop tomorrow night, they still have be thinking in the back of their minds, "what do we have to do to knock these guys out...?"