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WHL  

Rockets get back on track

The Kelowna Rockets jumped back into the win column Saturday night.

After getting just a point from a team (Spokane) outside the playoff picture Friday, the bounced back Saturday, knocking off the BC Division leading Prince George Cougars 5-2.

The Cougars got on the board first Saturday, but it was the Rockets who took over on the scoreboard the rest of the night.

Tomas Soustal banged home his 15th from the slot on a late first period power play to event it at 1-1 after 20.

The Rockets put it away with three unanswered goals in the second.

Devante Stephens made it 2-1 when he broke down the left wing, beat a defender wide, then buried a wraparound before Nick McBride could get to the far post.

James Hilsendager got what proved to be the winning goal on a seeing-eye shot from the left point. Nick Merkley rounded out the scoring in the second with a shorthanded breakaway.

After the Cougars cut into the lead in the first minute of the third, Calvin Thurkauf sealed it with an empty net goal in the final two minutes.

Michael Herringer, pulled after allowing three goals the night before, turned away 25 shots for the win Saturday.

The win moves the Rockets to within three of idle Kamloops, and seven of first place Prince Goerge.

The Rockets are back in action Wednesday when they host the Edmonton Oil Kings to close out their four-game homestand.





Rockets succumb in OT

Three times this season the Kelowna Rockets and Spokane Chiefs have needed overtime to decide an outcome.

And, for the third time, the Chiefs found the game winning goal in the fourth period in a 5-4 win over the Rockets.

Friday, Kailer Yamamoto provided the game winner. Driving through the slot, Yamamoto took a pass from Hudson Elynuik, put a move on Brodan Salmond, and tucked the puck into the open side of the net.

It came 61 seconds into overtime and seconds after Elynuik returned to the ice after serving a double minor for high sticking Dillon Dube late in the third.

He was in the box when the Rockets, with Salmond on the bench for an extra attacker, got the equalizer and forced overtime. Despite the momentum, it was the Chiefs who capitalized.

The game was reminiscent to Monday's comeback win over Seattle. The Rockets started slow, but got better as the game wore on, and by the third period, were the much better team.

"It was very similar. The attention to detail and the commitment to work and get to the net, make simple plays instead of turning the puck mover is a huge part of building momentum," said head coach Jason Smith.

"If you don't get to the net, and don't create opportunities and spend time in the offensive zone, you spend more time defending and chasing the puck."

The Rockets did a lot of chasing over the first 30 minutes and found themselves down 3-0.

A pair of defensive miscues led directly to two Spokane goals in the first and, second after a Dube goal was waived off, Elynuik split the Rockets defence, took a perfect breakaway pass and beat Michael Herringer with a deke to the forehand to make it 3-0.

Salmond came in at that point to replace Herringer, who gave up the three goals on just nine shots.

"I think you make decisions during the game when momentum is maybe swaying the other way," said Smith of the decision.

"It was a chance to shake things up, and maybe get our guys motivated and moving."

The move sparked the Rockets.

Nick Merkley scored five minutes later when his wrap around went off Spokane defenceman Ty Smith's stick and in. Nolan Foote got the Rockets to within a goal when he found the short side after a nifty drop pass from Merkley.

Thurkauf tied it when he appeared to be going behind the net, cut in front on the short side instead, and jammed the puck between Jayden Sittler's pad and the post.

Spokane retook the lead when Hayden Ostir buried a rebound off a two-on-one.

It held up until Thurkauf again tied it to force overtime.

"It was kind of disappointing that we lost this game, but I think it was good that we did rally back," said Thurkauf.

"We weren't happy at all with our first period, we didn't do the stuff we do normally like move the puck fast."

Despite firing 49 shots at Sittler, Smith said he was not happy with thee team's effort in front of the Spokane netminder. He said there were opportunities to capitalize on rebounds that they were unable to take advantage of.

With the single point the Rockets move to within nine points of idle Prince George, who remain atop the BC Division.

The Cougars were in town Friday as they get ready to face the Rockets Saturday at Prospera Place.

Thurkauf expects the Cougars to be fired up after the Rockets swept back-to-back games in Prince George two weeks ago.



Rockets blast off in the 3rd

The Kelowna Rockets saved their best for last.

The Rockets erased a one goal deficit with four unanswered goals in the third period in a 6-3 victory over the red hot Seattle Thunderbirds in a holiday matinee at Prospera Place.

Calvin Thurkauf and Nick Merkley keyed the comeback.

With the teams playing four-on-four, Merkley circled the net, powered the puck in front and slid it across the crease where Thurkauf banged home his second of the game to tie it.

Twenty-four seconds later, Reid Gardiner banged home a similar goal, this time with defenceman Devante Stephens playing the Merkley role with a wraparound with T-Birds goaltender Matt Berlin getting an initial pad on.

Late in the period, goals from Carsen Twarynski and a superb individual effort from Merkley 27 seconds later, provided the margin of victory.

Rockets head coach Jason Smith said nothing special was said in the room before the third period.

"I think it was the type of period we wanted to play the whole game. We had more energy and more jump. We had pace to our game," said Smith.

"The first two periods, we were a little bit stale, but we kept the game where we were still in it, and gave ourselves an opportunity."

The Rockets seized the opportunity against a Seattle team which came in 17-1-0-1 in its last 19 games.

Thurkauf scored twice and also levelled Ryan Gropp with a thunderous hit in the second period, sending the Seattle forward head long into the Rockets bench.

It's a candidate for hit-of-the-year which had the Swiss forward beaming after the game.

"It was kind of lucky he went over the boards, but it gave me an adrenalin rush and gave the team an adrenalin rush," said Thurkauf.

"It got the team fired up. I think from hits we can gain energy. They start to back off and it makes room for other players."

Merkley had a goal and two assists while Leif Mattson also scored for the Rockets. Stephens had a pair of assists.

Ethan Bear had a goal and two assists for the U.S. Division leading T-Birds.

The Rockets have now won three in a row and six of seven since the beginning of February.

"I think we're making progress. I think that's a part of really growing as a team," said Smith.

"You go through a little adversity, and when things aren't going well, it's about how you go from there and what you do the next time you're on the ice."

The Rockets were the lone B.C. Division team to win on BC Day as both the Kamloops Blazers and Prince George Cougars fell Monday afternoon.

Kelowna sits four points in back of Kamloops and just eight behind the Cougars. They hold games in hand on both.

The Rockets are off until Friday when they entertain the Spokane Chiefs. The Cougars invade Prospera Place Saturday.





Rockets blank Giants again

The Kelowna Rockets made sure their was no let down Saturday night.

A day after a convincing 6-0 win over the Vancouver Giants, the Rockets duplicated the effort Saturday,  beating the same Giants 5-0 in Langley to close out the home-and-home set.

Brodan Salmond turned away 19 shots to earn his second shutout in as many nights. Despite the goose egg, those who selected the stars didn't see fit to recognize the shutout.

Salmond's shutout streak now stands at 123 minutes and 25 seconds.

Five different Rockets found the back of the net Saturday.

Calvin Thurkauf, James Hilsendager, Erik Gardiner, Lucas Johansen and Kole Lind all scored for the Rockets. Gardiner and Johansen also had an assist to go with their goal while Dillon Dube had three helpers on the night.

The Rockets fired 38 shots at David Tendeck in the Vancouver net.

As they did Friday, the Rockets jumped on the Giants quickly, scoring twice before the game was nine minutes old.

They added two more in the opening two minutes of the second to essentially put it out of reach.

The Rockets, winners of two in a row and five of their last six, host Seattle in a 2 p.m. holiday Monday matinee.



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