Prokop’s Return Sparks Tri-City’s 5-4 Comeback Effort vs. Seattle
By Dan Mulhausen | Tri-City Americans
KENT, WA – Regardless of how his junior hockey career wraps up, the Neal Prokop story may have found its Hollywood ending.
Playing eight months and one day after breaking his femur in Game 3 of Tri-City’s first round playoff series with Chilliwack, Prokop set-up Jordan Messier’s game-tying goal, as the Tri-City Americans (13-9-1-1, 28 pts) rallied from a three-goal deficit to defeat the Seattle Thunderbirds (10-5-3-4, 27 pts) 5-4 in a shootout in front of 2,639 fans at ShoWare Center. After losing five straight, Tri-City has now won two of their last three. The win also marked just the second time this season that the Americans have rallied for a win when trailing entering the third period. The other time came back on October 26, also in ShoWare Center, when Tri-City rallied for a 5-4 shootout win. Meanwhile, Seattle fell to 0-3 in the nine-game series vs. Tri-City while playing in their ninth shootout of the season.
Typically a 12-month recovery time just to get back to skating, the fact that Prokop was now playing at the major junior level after only eight months was an accomplishment in and of itself. Unsure of how his body would respond to a full 60-minute contest, however, Prokop was eased back into the line-up, earning more time as the game progressed.
Meanwhile, it was the T’birds that jumped out to an early lead on Wednesday. Just 5:38 into the game, Tyler Alos let a shot go from the right circle that glanced off the pads of Drew Owsley and bounced back into the slot. There to capitalize was Colin Jacobs, who put Seattle on the board. Then, only 3:17 into the second period, Jacobs scored again off another Alos rebound to make it a 2-0 Seattle lead. Finally, with 7:29 remaining in the second period, and on the power play, Charles Wells found Travis Bobbee at the near post, who notched just his second goal of the season.
Already down 3-0 just past the midway point of the contest, Tri-City started on the comeback trail when they got a power play goal of their own. With less than four minutes remaining in the period, Connor Rankin used a Brendan Shinnimin pass to beat Calvin Pickard and get the Americans on the board. Then, just 1:07 into the third period, and back on the power play, Brock Sutherland sent a perfect tape-to-tape pass to Shinnimin, who redirected the pass past Pickard, pulling the Americans to within one at 3-2.
But, Seattle caught a bit of ‘puck luck’ when the puck slipped past Spencer Humphries, allowing Brendan Rouse to take off on a breakaway. With just over six minutes remaining in regulation, Rouse eventually slipped the puck under Owsley’s pads to put Seattle back on top by two.
Already 2-for-4 on the power play, and after Seattle’s Dave Sutter was called for interference, Americans coach Jim Hiller made a gutsy call to pull Owsley with 4:16 remaining in regulation. Despite coming up empty on the man-advantage, Owsley stayed on the bench and, one minute after the power play expired, Tri-City cashed in. A great individual pass by Adam Hughesman allowed Kruise Reddick to collect his fourth goal of the season and pull Tri-City back to within one at 4-3.
After winning the ensuing face-off, Hiller called for Owsley to head for the bench again, sensing that his team could pull through with the equalizer. Just 38 seconds later, and with 1:59 remaining in regulation, Messier knocked back Prokop’s rebound to cap the comeback.
Following a scoreless but eventful overtime period, the game headed to a shootout. With the hometown T’birds electing to shoot first, Seattle sent out Jacobs only to see his attempt roll off his stick before getting a shot away. Hughesman followed, placing a shot just over Pickard’s glove. Seattle’s Marcel Noebels and Tri-City’s Patrick Holland both drew blanks in the second round, creating a must-score situation for Burke Gallimore in round three. But, Gallimore’s attempt sailed high of its intended target, securing another 5-4 come-from-behind victory for the Americans.
Owsley matched his season-high with 42 saves in collecting his 50th WHL win. Meanwhile, Pickard faced 50+ shots for the fourth time in his career, finishing with 55 saves in the tough luck loss. Three of the four times he has faced 50 or more shots in a game have come against Tri-City, including a career-best 57-save shutout back on October 2, 2009. With WHL records only dating back to the 1996-97 season, the combined 106 shots faced on Wednesday was the highest recorded shot total in the Tri-City/Seattle series. It was also the largest number of shots on goal (60) for a Tri-City team against Seattle in the same time span. Seattle, however, launched 59 shots on goal in a 7-1 win over the Americans on December 28, 1997.
The Americans will now head home for a huge Thanksgiving weekend doubleheader. Before they take on the WHL-leading Portland Winterhawks on Saturday, Tri-City will play host to the Central Division’s Kootenay Ice (16-6-0-2) on Friday, November 26 at Toyota Center. Game time is 7:05 p.m. Tri-City had their three-game winning streak vs. the Ice snapped last season following a 7-1 beating on November 14 in Cranbrook. Tri-City has an all-time record of 12-20-0-0 with 3 ties vs. Kootenay. However, eight of those 12 wins have come inside the Toyota Center. Meanwhile, the Ice come in winners of five of their last seven games. 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.
Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Colin Jacobs, Seattle
2, Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City
3, Calvin Pickard, Seattle