by Ben Tole
March 26, 2014, Kennewick, WA (ISN) – Behind Eric Comrie’s 52 save performance, the Tri-City Americans (1-2) built a 3-0 lead in the second period and held on, despite a third period run by the Kelowna Rockets (2-1), as the Americans came away with the 4-3 victory at the Toyota Center on Tuesday night.
It was the Americans’ first victory against the Rockets this season, after losing all four contests during the regular season. Kelowna still leads the best-of-seven series 2-1, as the teams head into a pivotal Game 4 in the Western Conference Quarter Finals tomorrow night.
The 52-save performance set a new career-high for Comrie, who also recorded his first career playoff win on Tuesday.
The Rockets came out strong in the first period, carrying the play and outshooting the Americans 16-9 during the first 20 minutes of play. Comrie was forced to make several key saves, including a save on a 2-on-0 Rockets’ breakaway, sliding across his crease to rob Ryan Olsen of a goal and keeping the game scoreless.
After killing off two penalties in the early stages of the game, the Americans took some momentum away from the Rockets, recording multiple quality scoring chances in the second half of the first period. But, both goaltenders were on their games in the early going to keep the game scoreless after 20 minutes of play.
The game would remain scoreless until the 15:43 mark of the second period, when Parker Bowles won the puck battle on the side boards and found Jessey Astles in front of the net. The 20-year-old made no mistake, snapping it past Jordon Cooke to give Tri-City the 1-0 lead.
Following the goal, the Americans began to take control, scoring again just 1:08 later. Phil Tot tallied his second goal in as many nights, stuffing the rebound in the net to give the Americans a 2-0 lead at 16:51. Brian Williams would add a goal in the final minute of the third period to complete the Americans’ run of three goals in 3:23, taking a 3-0 lead into the second intermission.
The Rockets comeback bid began at 7:22 of the final period, when a Myles Bell wrist shot from the high slot found its way through traffic and past Comrie, cutting the deficit to just two-goals.
The Americans threatened to pull away several times during the third period, firing 12 shots at Cooke, but never managed to distance itself from the CHL’s top ranked team.
After a Brandon Carlo slashing penalty put the Rockets on the power play, Justin Kirkland deflected Madison Bowey’s point shot, to make it a 3-2 game with 6:55 remaining in the 3rd period.
But, at the 17:07 mark, Justin Gutierrez restored the two-goal lead for the Americans, taking the pass from Bowles and sliding it between the legs of Cooke to put the Americans on top 4-2.
With Braden Purtill in the penalty box and an empty net to give Kelowna a 6-on-4 power play, the Rockets would add one more goal. But, that would be as close as the Rockets would get after a 19-save third period by Comrie.
Trailing just 2-1, the Americans will look to even the series tomorrow night, as the teams faceoff in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarter Finals at 7:05 p.m. Tickets 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) Eric Comrie, Tri-City
2) Phil Tot, Tri-City
3) Myles Bell, Kelowna