Tri-City Herald: Owsley makes goal stand up as Ams beat Kelowna 1-0

By Jack Millikin | Tri-City Herald

KENNEWICK — The Western Hockey League postseason may be 68 games away, but there was a definite playoff feel to the Tri-City Americans’ 1-0 win over the Kelowna Rockets on Friday at Toyota Center.

The Ams got a first-period goal from Adam Hughesman just 5 minutes and 5 seconds into the game, and goaltender Drew Owsley made it stick over the final 54 minutes and change to keep Tri-City unbeaten at 4-0.

“We needed our goaltender more than we wanted tonight,” said Americans coach Jim Hiller. “I thought it was our best game of the year as far as pacing. We got off to a quick start and had a chance to score two or three quick goals, but their goalie (Adam Brown) made some good saves.”

The teams are familiar playoff rivals, having faced each other twice in the playoffs over the last two seasons. But the Rockets have struggled against the Ams on the road. Friday marked Kelowna’s ninth straight regular-season loss in Kennewick dating back to February 2006.

The Rockets looked a bit sluggish at the start, failing to register a shot over the first 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the Ams took advantage of several turnovers in the Kelowna zone, peppering Brown from all angles.

The Ams got on the board at the 14:55 mark of the first period when Brooks Macek checked Rockets defenseman Kevin Smith off the puck behind Kelowna’s net. Brendan Shinnimin skated in from the right side, gliding behind the net before whipping a backhand pass to Hughesman, who was coming in from the left circle and into the slot.

Hughesman finished the play beautifully, one-timing a shot past Brown’s glove side for his third goal of the year and a 1-0 lead.

“Shinnimin is a smart player,” Hughesman said. “That was the top goal of the year for us so far.”

The Rockets picked up their play the rest of the way, outshooting the Americans 34-21 over the final 2 1/2 periods. But thanks to Owsley, who stopped every one of Kelowna’s 34 shots, Tri-City kept a clean slate.

But it wasn’t without a few close calls.

Owsley stonewalled Kelowna forward Spencer Main at 17:40 of the second period after Tri-City defenseman Spencer Humphries slipped on the ice with the puck, creating a 2-on-1 Rockets breakaway.

Owsley got tested again in the third period as Kelowna outshot Tri-City 12-6. The biggest threat came with 8:15 remaining in the game, when Main skated in hard to the net and tried to wrist a loose puck past Owsley. The puck got lost in a scrum before several Rockets players signaled a goal. But after the play was reviewed on video, no goal was allowed.

Owsley doesn’t mind being in the middle of a close game, but waiting for the official decision on a close call is a different story.

“It’s awful. There were a couple in our last game that didn’t go our way,” Owsley said. “I stopped the shot, but it might have gone over me.”

In the final two minutes, Tri-City did a good job keeping Brown on the ice when they were looking to add an extra attacker, challenging Kelowna players for every puck.

Finally, Brown was able to leave the ice with just under 40 seconds remaining. By then, it might have been a little to late.

“Ideally, with around a minute left you look to get him out there, but it doesn’t always work out,” said Rockets coach Ryan Huska. “I thought we deserved a point tonight. I really did.”

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