Kelowna, BC- The Tri-City Americans (17-23-2-0, 36 pts) battled for three periods with the Kelowna Rockets (29-10-3-0, 61 pts), but the Americans came up just short, falling to the Rockets 7-5 in front of 5,348 at Prospera Place on Saturday Night.
Kelowna got on the board less than two minutes into the game, as Justin Kirkland wrapped the puck around from behind the net and tucked it inside the left post for a 1-0 lead. Tri-City tied the game five minutes into the first, as Jeff Rayman fired a one-timer from the point through traffic and into the net. The Americans took the lead two minutes later, as Beau McCue was left all alone in front of the Kelowna net, slapping the puck in for a 2-1 lead. But the Rockets came right back, as two minutes later, Calvin Thurkauf had a rebound spit out to him in the slot, firing it into the goal on the power play to tie the game at two. Less than 30 seconds later, Tyson Ballie fired a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that found twine for a 3-2 Kelowna lead after the first period.
The Rockets pushed the lead to 4-2 less than a minute into the second on a goal from Dillon Dube. Tri-City cut the lead to 4-3 a few minutes later on the power play. Parker Wotherspoon fired a wrist shot through traffic top shelf to light the red lamp. Midway through the second, McCue scored his second of the game, tapping in a loose puck laying in the crease to even the score at four. Kelowna retook the lead late in the second as Lucas Johansen fired a slap shot into the goal on the power play for a 5-4 advantage going into the third period.
Six minutes into the third, Rourke Chartier fired a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle to push the lead to 6-4. The Americans made a late push, as Vladislav Lukin cut the score to one goal, shooting the puck through the goaltender’s legs with four minutes left in the game. Tri-City fought hard to get the equalizer, but a Nick Merkley empty net goal with one second left sealed the win for Kelowna.
The Americans end their five game road trip at 2-3, losing the last three games of the trip.
Tri-City converted 1-of-6 on the power play and recorded 12 penalty minutes. Kelowna scored on 3-of-4 power play opportunities and spent 14 minutes in the penalty box.
Nicholas Sanders got the start and made eight saves, and Evan Sarthou came on midway through the first and stopped 27 shots in the loss. Michael Herringer stopped 22 shots in the win.
The Americans will head back to Tri-City and have some time to recover from the road trip before taking on the Saskatoon Blades (15-23-3-0, 33 pts) on Friday, Jan. 15.Game time is at 7:05 p.m. at Toyota Center. The Americans won the meeting last season, 5-3, in Saskatoon. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations, including the Toyota Center Box Office, at any Fred Meyer outlet or online at Ticketmaster.com.
Jack in the Box Three Stars
1. Lucas Johansen, Kelowna
2. Parker Wotherspoon, Tri-City
3. Parker Bowles, Tri-City
WHL Box Score: CLICK HERE