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Owsley, Americans Defuse Rockets 1-0

By Dan Mulhausen | Tri-City Americans

KENNEWICK, WA – You rarely see statement games in early October, but that’s exactly what the 3,837 fans at the Toyota Center saw on Friday night.

Drew Owsley stopped all 34 shots he faced and Adam Hughesman tallied the eventual game-winner, as the Tri-City Americans (4-0-0-0, 8 pts) shutout the visiting Kelowna Rockets (0-3-0-0, 0 pts) 1-0 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.  With the win, the 2010-11 Americans join the 2007-08 squad (5-0) as the only other team in franchise history to start a season with four straight wins.  The win also continued Kelowna’s plight in Kennewick, which now sits at nine consecutive losses at the Toyota Center.

Less than 48 hours after their last meeting, Friday night’s contest started with a bang.  Well, several bangs that is.  From the drop of the puck to begin the game, both teams looked to set the tone physically.

But, just 5:05 into the game, a hustling Brendan Shinnimin forced a turnover deep inside the Rockets zone.  From behind the net, Shinnimin found Hughesman in the slot, who ripped a shot past Adam Brown for the 1-0 lead.  Yet, even with the Americans’ offense accounting for 14 goals in their first three games, no one could have expected what came next over the following 55 minutes of play.

The energy inside the Toyota Center changed in the second period, as the Rockets slowly started to muscle away the momentum Tri-City generated in the first 20 minutes.  And it began at the start of the period, after Brendon Wall was called for tripping 31 seconds into the period.  That gave Tri-City a 52-second 5-on-3 power play when combined with Colton Jobke’s tripping penalty at the 19:23 mark of the 1st period.  But, a solid penalty killing effort by the Rockets limited the Americans to just one shot on goal.

Kelowna would eventually out chance Tri-City 13 to 11 in the second period, but still found themselves trailing 1-0 headed into the third period.

The shot discrepancy widened in the final 20 minutes, with the Rockets holding a 12 to 6 edge.  But, a shot off the cross bar here, a blocked shot there and, before long, Kelowna was simply out of time.  Rockets’ head coach Ryan Huska pulled Brown for the extra attacker in the final 40 seconds of play, but Owsley and the Americans’ defense were up to the task.

Throughout the contest, the individual plays by the Tri-City defense were numerous and are what kept them ahead on the scoreboard.  You had Sam Grist diving in to the net to block a shot, Spencer Humphries poking loose the puck from an on-coming forward and Tyler Schmidt logging a ton of solid minutes on the penalty kill.  Combine that with Owsley’s best performance of the young season and

Owsley’s shutout moved him into a tie for 3rd all-time on Tri-City’s shutout list, joining Aaron Baker at six.  He also improved his regular season record to 7-0 all-time vs. Kelowna.  Meanwhile, Brown posted his best performance of the season, stopping 27 of the 28 shots he faced in the tough luck loss.  Tri-City finished the night 0-for-7 on the power play, but was a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.

Tomorrow, Tri-City will set off on a 13-day, 7-game road trip.  The first stop on their longest road trip of the season is a familiar one, Veterans Memorial Arena, where they will face-off against their division rivals, the Spokane Chiefs.  Game time is 7:00 pm.  It will be the second match-up in a week between the two clubs, as the Americans started their winning streak with a 6-3 win against the Chiefs on September 25 in Kennewick.  Meanwhile, the Chiefs are coming off a 6-3 loss in Kootenay on Friday and will now turn their attention to their first home game of the season.  Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL WebTV, at the Americans’ home away from home, Kimo’s Sports Café in Richland.  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.

Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Drew Owsley, Tri-City
2, Adam Brown, Kelowna
3, Tyler Schmidt, Tri-City

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