Rockets Snap Americans Home Winning StreakPosted: Updated:
KENNEWICK, WA – The Toyota Center has not been kind to the Kelowna Rockets in their 16-year history, who entered tonight's match-up having lost nine consecutive regular season visits to Kennewick.
But, Zach Franko and the Kelowna Rockets (27-20-0-0, 54 pts) took advantage of the opportunities they were given on Sunday and parlayed that into a 4-3 victory over the host Tri-City Americans (29-13-2-1, 61 pts) in front of 4,017 fans at the Toyota Center. The Rockets, winners of four straight games and six of their last seven, won for the first time in the Tri-Cities since February 25, 2006. Meanwhile, the loss snapped the Americans' 13-game home winning streak, the second-longest single-season stretch in the franchise's history.
Similar to their game last night against Spokane, the Rockets fell way behind on shots in the first period. But, unlike Saturday's game, they managed to jump out to a two-goal lead.
Despite a 16 to 5 shot disadvantage in the period, Kelowna went up 1-0 at the 9:28 mark after an Americans' turnover deep in their own end. After showing some grit by forcing the turnover in the corner, Jessey Astles corralled the loose puck and flipped a shot on Drew Owsley from the right circle. Owsley, though, was unable to control the puck, as it slipped between his pads and across the line.
Then, only 2:20 later, and playing four-aside, Franko forced another Tri-City turnover, this time near center ice, and took off on a breakaway with Mitchell Callahan. With no defender between them, Callahan and Franko played catch twice before Franko eventually netted his first of two goals on the night.
The Americans, who had not trailed in a home game since November 21, rallied in the final 5:36 of the first period to tie the game at 2. The first came off the stick of Carter Ashton, who notched his 21st goal of the season during a scramble in front of Jordon Cooke. Then, with 1:59 remaining, Patrick Holland connected with Justin Feser in the slot, who proceeded to bury a shot over Cooke's glove to make it 2-all.
But, midway through the second period, Kelowna's hustle led to another lead for the Rockets. Rookie MacKenzie Johnston scrambled to keep the puck in the zone at the left point and then fired a shot on Owsley that bounced off the crossbar and into the net.
The Americans, though, would get a great opportunity of their own to get back into the contest. With over four minutes remaining in the period, Tri-City went on the power play, which included a 5-on-3 man-advantage for 1:51. But, the Americans managed just one shot on goal, and continued to trail 3-2 headed into the final period of play.
Just 4:11 into the third, Franko connected again, this time on a 2-on-1 breakaway with Brett Bulmer, to increase the Rockets' lead back to two.
But, with 11:36 remaining in regulation, and just 10 seconds after coming out of the penalty box, Ashton ripped a shot past Cooke to pull the Americans back to within one. However, even with Owsley pulled for the final 1:18, Tri-City could not complete the comeback and force overtime.
Cooke, who was making just his ninth WHL start, picked up 30 saves on 33 shots faced while collecting his 5th win of the season. Meanwhile, Owsley stopped 11 of the 15 shots he saw in the loss. The Americans were a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill but went 0-for-4 on the power play, snapping their 11-game streak of at least one man-advantage goal.
The Americans will now get a full week off to prepare for a pivotal doubleheader weekend, when they face both teams they are chasing in the division standings. Before taking on the rival Chiefs in Spokane on Saturday, the Americans will host the Portland Winterhawks (32-14-0-3) on Friday, January 28. Game time is 7:05 p.m. at the Toyota Center. Portland, who will host Chilliwack on Wednesday, has currently won five straight, which also included their last meeting with the Americans, a 5-4 overtime win on January 18. Meanwhile, Tri-City currently leads the nine-game season series 3-1-1-0. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, including online at ticketmaster.com, the Toyota Center box office, or all Fred Meyer outlets. The game will also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 6:45 p.m.