by Ben Tole
February 19, 2014, Kelowna, B.C. –The Tri-City Americans (27-27-3-3, 60 pts.) fell behind mid-way through the first period and were never able to recover, struggling to get its offense going as the Kelowna Rockets (47-8-0-4, 98 pts.) defeated the Americans 5-1 at Prospera Place on Wednesday night.
It was the Americans fourth consecutive loss, concluding its five-game Western Conference road swing with a 1-3-1-0 record. Tri-City continues to lead the Prince George Cougars (25-30-3-5, 58 pts.) by two points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Evan Sarthou made just the ninth start of his rookie season and despite the score, played a very strong game between the pipes, making a career-high 46 saves on the night.
After the Americans registered the first few shots in the opening period, the Rockets took control of the game, outshooting Tri-City 20-5 in the first 20 minutes of play.
Tyrell Goulbourne opened the scoring for the Rockets at 9:43 of the first period, when the left winger’s rolling point shot hit a stick in front of the net, lifting it over Sarthou’s blocker.
The Americans’ net minder made several key saves to keep Tri-City in the game during the early stages. But, goals by Myles Bell and Nick Merkley 36 seconds apart stretched Kelowna’s lead to three-goals after 20 minutes of play.
The Americans jumped out of the gate in the second period with a strong opening shift, but were unable to sustain that pressure, as the Rockets took momentum right back.
Cole Linaker gave Kelowna a 4-0 lead 3:30 into the middle frame, one timing Damon Severson’s pass at the blue line and beating the rookie goaltender. Mitchell Wheaton would extend the Rocket’s lead to five-goals with his sixth score of the season at 18:44.
Trailing 5-0 late in the game, the Americans began testing Jordan Cooke with their best opportunities of the evening, as the team looked to spoil the shutout. Rodney Southam would do just that, getting Tri-City on the board with 1:18 remaining in the game. But, that would be all for the Americans offense, as it was held to just 16 shots on the night.
The Americans return home to open a three-game home stand when the team takes on the Prince Albert Raiders (28-28-2-2, 62 pts.) on Friday night for the Ninth Annual Fred Meyer Breast Cancer Awareness game. Tickets for the game are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, including the Toyota Center box office, all Fred Meyer outlets, or online at ticketmaster.com
Jack In Box Three Stars
1) Cole Linaker, Kelowna
2) Tyrell Goulbourne, Kelowna
3) Riley Stadel, Kelowna