Rockets take down Hawks

It was a bounce back night for the Kelowna Rockets and forward Kole Lind.

The Rockets bounced back from a pair of one-goal losses in a convincing 4-1 win over the Portland Winterhawks Saturday at Prospera Place.

For Lind, it was a return to the scoresheet. The Rockets' leading scorer snapped a 10-game goalless drought with a pair of goals and two helpers in the victory.

"It's good to get those. It's been a while," said Lind.

Both goals came on the power play. The first was an opportunistic goal as he swooped in from the left boards, found a loose puck, and squeezed it in from a behind the goal line.

"It was going in to help with the battle behind the net, and the puck squeeked out to me.

"Throw it toward the net from everywhere the coach said, so I threw it on net, and got lucky. It went off the goalies back and in."

His second, which gave the Rockets a 3-1 lead early in the third, came off the rush as he beat a defenceman with an outside-inside move, then beat Cole Kehler on the short side from a sharp angle.

The game was tied at one before Lind made it 3-1 with his two power play markers. Brayden Chizen closed out the scoring when his shot from the point redirected off a defenceman's stick past Kehler.

Tomas Soustal also scored for the Rockets.

After dropping two games coach Jason Smith said they struggled to stay in, the Rockets came out more determined, and more physical Saturday night.

"Tonight we were involved in the game. We played loser to the structure and compete level we need to play," said Smith.

The power play, which has struggled of late, did a better job of moving the puck around and finding open looks.

" I think that's one thing we really have to work on is getting the power play going.

"When we move the puck quick we create shots, we recover it, we move the puck quick again and create another opportunity. Special teams are a huge part in this league and we have to continue to push to work to get better at it."

Saturday's win keeps the Rockets three points back of Kamloops in the battle for second in the BC Division.

The game begins a run of nine of 13 games at home for the Rockets.

"It's important to play well at home. You want to make it a hard rink for opposing teams to play in," said Smith.

"Starting the game the right way is very important, and also finishing off by playing a complete 60 minutes. Doing things right and making it hard for teams to come in here and have success is an important part of moving forward and having success."

The Rockets are off until next weekend when they host Kamloops Friday and Portland again Saturday.

That time could give Reid Gardiner, Nolan Foote and Dillon Dube to get healthy. All three were out of the lineup with various ailments.


Rockets fall to lowly Giants

The Kelowna Rockets squandered two points they probably should have had.

They battled all the way back from a three goal deficit, only to give up the game winner with less than four minutes to go in regulation time, in  a 5-4 loss to the Vancouver Giants.

The Giants, sitting in the cellar of the Western Conference, built up a 4-1 lead, before the Rockets roared back.

Cal Foote shorthanded, Kyle Topping and Rodney Southam on the power play brought the Rockets even at 4-4 before the midway mark of the third.

But, they were unable to find the winner or drag the game into overtime.

Ty Ronning scored his 19th of the season with three-and-a-half minutes as the Giants snapped a six-game losing streak.

Calvin Thurkauf scored the other goal for the Rockets, who trailed 2-1 after one and 4-3 after 40 minutes.

The loss was their third in a row.

The Rockets try to jump back into the win column Saturday night when they host the Portland Winterhawks.


Rockets stumble in OT loss

The Kelowna Rockets weren't good enough for the first 40 minutes to notch a 'W' in the win column.

The Moose Jaw Warriors came into Prospera Place Wednesday and skated away with a 3-2 overtime victory.

Brayden Burke notched the game winner for the visitors. With a lot of open ice during three-on-three overtime, he circled around the Rockets net, skated past the top of the circle before curling into the slot and beating Michael Herringer with a shot that nicked the post and went in.

Before that?

"It was obviously disappointing. We didn't play well enough to win the game for two periods," said head coach Jason Smith.

"We had a hesitation and a pause in our game, especially in our defensive zone where we spent too much time defending and not enough time in the (offensive) zone."

The Rockets also didn't capitalize on a number of quality power play chances. They had two five-on-three advantages and a four minute power play but were slow, tentative and, mostly, ineffective on all of them.

"We definitely have to work on our power play in practice. We have to execute the plays we need to execute better," said forward Nick Merkley.

"Five-on-threes and four-on-threes are premium opportunities to get a goal or create momentum because you force them to make great saves," add Smith.

"We were slow moving the puck, and had a little bit of a pause. When you don't pass the puck tape-to-tape, you can't shoot the puck and you don't create lanes. We didn't get enough to the net, and obviously, we didn't score."

The power play went 0-7 on the night.

The Rockets appeared to open the scoring when Merkley dangled inside the Moose Jaw zone and beat Brody Willms with a nasty wrist shot. The goal was called off when Devante Stephens was called for interference just as Merkley was about to shoot.

After a scoreless first, the visitors jumped out to a 2-0 second period lead. Matt Sozanski beat Herringer during a delayed penalty call, then Tampa Bay prospect Brett Howden sent a back door wrister past the Rockets netminder on a Moose Jaw power play.

Merkley got one back before the end of the period on a heads up play by both Rodney Southam and Lucas Johansen.

Southem chipped the puck toward the penalty boxes as Johansen was stepping out of the box. He fed a perfect pass to Merkley, who deked the defenceman and Willms, circled the net, and tucked the puck into the open side.

Calvin Thurkauf tied it off the rush with a wrist shot from the right circle that seemed to fool Willms.

The Rockets had several chances on the power play after Thurkauf's goal, but were unable to find the winner.

Moose Jaw dominated the overtime period before Burke ended it at 3:05 of sudden death.

The Rockets are back at it Friday night when they travel to Vancouver to face the Giants. Kelowna returns home to host Portland Saturday.

Lind jumps in draft rankings

A strong first half to the Western Hockey league season has moved Kole Lind into the conversation of a potential first-round NHL draft pick.

The 18-year-old Kelowna Rocket forward is ranked 21st among North American skaters in the mid-season Central Scouting rankings.

Such a ranking would suggest a possible low first-round selection, without factoring in where players in Europe will slot in.

Previous rankings had Lind listed as a B prospect, making him a projected second- or third-round selection.

Through 44 games this season, Lind leads the Rockets in scoring with 20 goals and 52 points. He's 19th in league scoring.

Defenceman Cal Foote is the only other Rockets ranked by Central Scouting. Foote is rated 12th among North American skaters.

Former Rocket and Kelowna native Jonathan Smart is rated 98th.

Despite missing several weeks with injuries, Brandon Wheat King centre Nolan Patrick remains the number one ranked prospect.

This year's draft will be held June 23 and 24 in Chicago.

More WHL articles