After a three-day respite, the Allen Americans resumed their CHL Finals battle with the Rapid City Rush in Game Three on Wednesday night at the Allen Event Center. In front of a crowd of 3,532, the Americans got a hat trick from Colton Yellow Horn and a pair of goals from Justin Bowers to power them to a 5-2 win over the Rush. The Americans now lead the best-of-seven series, two games to one.
“Colton finished the regular season real strong,” Americans head coach Dwight Mullins said. ”He was maybe a little quiet in the first round against Laredo, but he really stepped things up for us here in the back half of the Odessa series and he’s been one of our best players for the first three games of this series. He’s highly, highly skilled and he’s just a smart player. He’s doing the things he needs to do to help our hockey team.”
Yellow Horn’s hat trick was the first of his professional career, but the offensive burst was no surprise to anyone who has been watching this team since his arrival during the regular season. The diminutive, gritty forward has a lot of edge to his game, but his offensive talent has never been in question. His ease with the Americans system after more than half a season and his trust in his teammates has allowed him to open up his arsenal and get creative.
That creativity was evident on Yellow Horn’s first goal. The Americans were up 2-0 and on the penalty kill early in the 2nd period. Yellow Horn led a rush up the ice for Allen, and made a great move on Rush center Brendon Hodge to get free. He stopped short and handled the puck around Hodge and then beat Rapid City goalie Danny Battochio with a quick shot. The goal gave Allen a 3-0 lead just a minute and a half into the period.
“It’s one of my favorite moves, I try it all the time,” Yellow Horn said. ”Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Today I got lucky and had it work and scored a goal off of it.”
The Americans assault on the Rush started early in the first period.
The Americans jumped out to a quick lead, converting their first powerplay opportunity of the game. Justin Bowers picked up a rebound in the slot, and wristed it past Battochio to give Allen the early 1-0 lead.
Bowers struck again later in the 1st period, swooping into the slot and getting a feed from defenseman Erik Adams. Bowers had Battochio out of position and blasted into a mostly open net. The Americans took this 2-0 lead into the dressing room at the first intermission.
Yellow Horn’s inventive goal came next, to lead off the scoring in the 2nd period. The Amerians were up 3-0 just a minute and a half into the 2nd period.
Later in the same period, Allen added to this lead. Nino Musitelli burst out of the penalty box after serving a roughing penalty, and collected the puck in his own end. He led a charge up ice with Jarret Lukin and Yellow Horn, and after a quick deke with the puck, dished it behind his back to Lukin near the crease, who then slid it over to Yellow Horn for the easy tap-in goal. The Americans were up 4-0 about mid-way through the game.
But, the Rush finally got on the board with 7:48 to play in the 2nd period. Brendan Cook buried a bouncing puck in the net to give Rapid City their first goal of the night on their 24th shot, and cut the Americans lead to 4-1.
In the 3rd period, the Rush pulled even closer to the Americans. Scott Wray broke into the Americans zone on the left point after a pile up at the blue line, and beat Americans goalie Chris Whitley with a slapshot. Allen held to a 4-2 lead with 7:48 to play in regulation.
The Rush pulled their goalie with 1:23 left to play, and added the extra attacker. Tyler Wooddisse grabbed the puck with about a minute left, though, and fed it up to Yellow Horn driving up the right side of the ice. The rookie deposited the puck down ice to cement the win for his team and pick up his first pro hat trick.
The Americans will get back to work on Friday and Saturday at the Allen Even Center in games four and five of the Finals. The Americans will have a chance to win the Ray Miron Cup in front of their home crowd on Saturday with a win on Friday, but Mullins isn’t worried about his team losing focus on Game Four.
“One of the biggest strengths of our hockey team, from day one, is that we’ve never looked ahead of ourselves,” Mullins said. ”We’ve taken every day as it comes, whether it’s a weekend series during the regular season or even through these playoffs. The same process will go into game four that went into game three. We have to park this one now, learn from it, and do what we need to do to make sure we’re putting our best effort forth in Game Four, regardless of the situation. We’re in no position to get ahead of ourselves.”
Photo Gallery by John O’Neill