By Annie Fowler

The Kelowna Rockets, who once trailed by three goals midway through the game, needed overtime Wednesday night to sweep the Tri-City Americans in their Western Conference first-round series.

Gage Quinney scored the game winner at 18:32 of overtime for a 5-4 victory before a crowd of 2,819 at Toyota Center. It was the first time the Rockets had swept a U.S. Division team in the playoffs, whether in Tacoma or Kelowna.

“It wasn’t easy,” Kelowna coach Dan Lambert said. “I don’t know if that was Eric Comrie’s last game as an American, but if it was, it was a good one.”

Comrie finished with 66 saves on the night for Tri-City, which was outshot 71-30.

“The performance in goal was unreal,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said. “I don’t know if you will see that again. I have had the privilege of coaching some top guys, but I haven’t seen a performance like that.”

Comrie stopped the Rockets’ first 16 shots on goal in overtime, and with less than 2 minutes to play, it looked as if a second extra session was on the horizon.

Kelowna was working the puck around in Tri-City’s end. Tyson Baillie found Quinney, who was able to beat Comrie with 1:28 left on the clock.

“We got it deep and Baillie made a nice pass,” Quinney said. “I was fortunate to finish. The scores in the series didn’t say how hard it was against those guys. Comrie was unreal the whole series.”

Tri-City defenseman Brandon Carlo, who is projected to be a first-round NHL draft pick in June, said he thought the Americans gave the Rockets all they could handle.

“We have nothing to be ashamed of,” Carlo said. “It was an honor to be out there with these guys. Eric is the definition of a brick wall. I respect him a lot.”

The Rockets faced a 4-3 deficit entering the third period, but quickly tied the score as Madison Bowey scored his second of the night just 37 seconds into the period.

Kelowna, in the unfamiliar position of trailing 2-0 after the first period, cut the Americans’ lead in half just 30 seconds into the second as Rourke Chartier scored a wraparound goal.

The Americans got a goal from Richard Nejezchleb, who blasted the puck past Jackson Whistle from the right faceoff circle at 14:06, to make it 3-1, and Beau McCue made it 4-1 with a short-handed goal, gathering a rebound off a shot by Dylan Coghlan and guiding the puck in the net at 17:57.

McCue’s goal was the end of Whistle’s night. He allowed four goals on 19 shots.

After the goalie change, the Rockets went to work, scoring twice in a span of 36 seconds to pull within 4-3.

Bowey scored from the point at 18:13, and Chartier scored his second of the night at 18:49.

The Rockets took control of the first period from the start, firing puck after puck at Comrie. At the first-period break, Kelowna had a 15-0 shot advantage 10:25 into the game.

A minute after the break, Tri-City’s Coghlan flung the puck to toward the net from the far side of the left circle, and the puck found its way into the net on the Americans’ first shot on goal for a 1-0 lead.

Tyler Sandhu gave Tri-City a 2-0 lead at 18:12, redirecting a shot from the point by Coghlan past Whistle.

The Americans killed off three Kelowna power plays in the first, and Comrie stopped all 20 shots that came his way.

“I thought we had such a good start,” Lambert said. “Then, their first shot on net goes in, then the third. They had puck luck there.”