Kole Lind of the Kelowna Rockets battles Tri-City’s Dylan Coghlan in WHL Game 1 playoff action Thursday at Prospera Place.                                -Image: Cindy Rogers/Nyasa Photography

Kole Lind of the Kelowna Rockets battles Tri-City’s Dylan Coghlan in WHL Game 1 playoff action Thursday at Prospera Place. -Image: Cindy Rogers/Nyasa Photography

Americans blank Rockets in playoff opener

Patrick Dea stops all 39 shots to lead Tri-City to victory in Game 1 in Kelowna

Patrick Dea finished off the Western Hockey League regular season in style, earning the Canadian Hockey League’s goaltender of the week award.

Much to the chagrin of the Kelowna Rockets, the 20-year-old Tri-City Americans’ stopper rode that momentum right into the playoffs.

Dea stopped all 39 shots he faced Thursday at Prospera Place to lead the Americans to a 5-0 victory over the Rockets in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Morgan Geekie and Michael Rasmussen each scored twice for the Americans who made the most of their power play opportunities, going a perfect 3-for-3, while Kelowna was 0-for-4.

Down 2-0 late in the second period, Rockets forward Dillon Dube was handed a five-minute major and game misconduct for charging—raising the ire of more than 5,100 fans at Prospera Place—after going hard to the net and crashing into Dea.

Dube was being pursued by Ams defenceman Jake Bean who made contact with the Kelowna forward just prior the collision.

The Americans would put the game away with three straight power play goals early in the third, the first two on Dube’s five-minute major.

Rockets head coach Jason Smith said the call on Dube represented a key turning point in the game.

“The refs made the call, it is what it is, can’t say much about it,” said Smith. “Obviously it changed momentum in the game, refs made the call based on what they saw, it is what it is.

“We did some good things on that PK, but we made one mistake and it turned into three and the puck ended up in our net, that’s what happens when momentum changes in junior hockey. Now it’s about how we change the momentum and get ready for the next one.”

The Rockets started strong and fired 19 shots at the Ams net in the opening but couldn’t get one past Dea, a recurring theme throughout the game

“For the next game of the series, we’re going to want to get in this guy’s face, make sure we’re in front, not let him see all the pucks flying at him,” said Rockets captain Cal Foote. “It was a good start to the game, but we’ve just gotta find a way to finish it off.”

GAME SUMMARY

James Porter stopped 27 shots in the Kelowna net.

Game 2 goes Saturday night at Prospera Place, with face off at 7:05 p.m.

Games 3 and 4 set for next Wednesday and Thursday in Kennewick, WA.

Series schedule:

Game 1—Tri-City 5, Kelowna 0, Thursday, March 22 7:05

Game 2—Tri-City @ Kelowna, Saturday, March 24 7:05

Game 3—Kelowna @ Tri-City, Wednesday, March 28 7:05

Game 4—Kelowna @ Tri-City, Thursday, March 29 7:05

Game 5—* Tri-City @ Kelowna, Saturday, March 31 7:05

Game 6—* Kelowna @ Tri-City, Sunday, April 1 5:05

Game 7—* Tri-City @ Kelowna, Tuesday, April 3 7:05