Rockets win, not pretty

The Kelowna Rockets continue to find ways to make games closer than they really should be.

Three times this week, the Rockets held commanding leads, only to watch the opposition come roaring back to make a game of it.

Saturday, the Rockets were in complete command with a 3-0 lead over the Kamloops Blazers. Then they stopped playing.

Kamloops led 4-3 after two and 5-4 with less than seven minutes to go before goals from Carsen Twarynski on a power play and Leif Mattson with 2:13 to go allowed the Rockets to pull out another victory.

"I think we've got some soul-searching to do in the room. We have to buy in, we can't let these teams hang around," said veteran defenceman Gordie Ballhorn.

"We have to figure out how to shut teams out and put them to bed. We can't keep letting them back into hockey games."

Head coach Jason said the Rockets weren't mentally in the game after taking the 3-0 lead.

"I think we started to cheat. We were thinking it would be easy because it was 3-0.

"They're a team that plays no matter what the score is. They're well-coached, they play hard, they compete, and we took our foot off the pedal, and soon we were behind."

Dillon Dube got the Rockets on the board with the only two goals of the opening period. Connor Bruggen-Cate with his 17th on a wrist shot from the slot made it 3-0 early in the second on a power play.

The comeback began just past the midway point of the second. Jermaine Loewen, a thorn in the Rockets' side all night, converted a give-and-go, then 21 seconds later, Luc Smith scored on a two-on-one, and the momentum was all Kamloops.

Nick Chyzowski battled the puck out of midair on a Kamloops power play to tie it, then Nolan Kneen gave the Blazers a one goal lead with a one-timer from the left circle.

Leif Mattson, who had another strong game for the Rockets, was credited with the tying goal when former Rocket Joe Gatenby inadvertently swiped at the puck in the crease and knocked it into his own net. The goal was shorthanded.

Moments later on the same power play Orrin Centazzo beat Brodan Salmond to restore the one-goal lead.

Twarynski with the equalizer and Mattson with the winner closed out the scoring, but not the excitement.

With time winding down and the Rockets on a power play, Dube coughed the puck up in his own end, causing a few tense moments inside the Rockets end.

They were able to kill off the final seconds, but, as the buzzer went, Loewen appeared to hit someone late in the corner which attracted everyone on the ice, including Salmond, who tried to get at Loewen, and engaged Smith briefly.

Eight game misconducts and 86 minutes in penalties were handed out as a result.

The Rockets outshot Kamloops 37-28, and scored on three of their six opportunities with the man advantage.

Despite the way they've won, the Rockets have still won three-in-a-row, and have opened a seven point lead on the Victoria Royals atop the BC Division.

The Rockets now hit the road for back-to-back games in Prince George Tuesday and Wednesday and Everett Friday. They return home to host Spokane Saturday.




"By sitting them on the bench the next time they take bad penalties. That's probably the best way to do it.


Rockets squeeze out win

Kole Lind snapped a 4-4 tie with 1:21 left in regulation time as the Kelowna Rockets squeezed past the Seattle Thunderbirds 5-4 at Prospera Place Friday.

The goal, Lind's 32nd, came in his first game back after missing four games after taking a thunderous hit from Victoria's Ralph Jarratt. He flew down the left wing and rifled a wrist shot from the left circle that beat Dorrin Luding upstairs.

For the longest time, it looked as if the Rockets wouldn't need any late-game heroics to secure the win.

After a slow start, the Rockets built a 4-2 lead, but goals 29 seconds apart late in the third pulled the T-Birds even.

"We made a few mistakes in managing the game that allowed them to tie the game back up," said Rockets head coach Jason Smith.

He said the first goal was the result of a sloppy line change and the second after a turnover at the Seattle blueline which gave the T-Birds and odd-man rush the other way.

Seattle jumped on the Rockets in the opening period, grabbing a 2-0 lead on goals from Donovan Neuls and Dillon Hamaliuk.

But, it was a different Rockets team that came out in the second.

"We knew we needed to amp up our game, we had kind of a slow start," said Leif Mattson, who contributed a goal and an assist.

"We came out in the second and made sure we were winning our battles, getting to the net and getting into the goalie's eyes. It paid off getting a couple of goals and carried some momentum into the third for us."

Cal Foote got the Rockets on the board just 19 seconds into period when his wrist shot from the slot beat a screened Luding to the glove side.

Two minutes later, Mattson streaked down the left wing, drove toward the net and threw a no-look pass into the slot. Dube banged that home for his 30th of the campaign to tie it at 2-2.

Mattson put the Rockets up for the first time early in the third, when he pounced on a loose puck at the side of the Seattle let and hooked it five-hole during a Kelowna power play.

Jack Cowell, on another power play, increased the lead to 4-2 when he deflected Kaedan Korczak's wrist shot from the point.

But, defensive miscues allowed the T-Birds to get back in, setting the stage for Lind's late-game heroics.

Dube's goal gives the Rockets three 30 goal scorers.

While it's nice to have some dependable snipers, Smith says you can't always count on two or three players to get the job done.

"We've had stretches where some of those guys have been out for big parts, and we've managed to score enough goals to win games.

"As you play and get into the playoffs, it's about the depth, and being able to use guys on your bench to have success. That's what we're working for."

Friday's win allowed the Rockets to extend their lead atop the BC Division to five points over Victoria, after the Royals fell 2-1 to Portland. Vancouver lost 2-1 to Everett to fade 10 points off the pace.

The Rockets close out their four-game homestand Saturday when the rival Kamloops Blazers come to town.

Kelowna then hits the road for three straight, back-to-back games in Prince George and a Friday tilt in Everett.

Rockets cling to victory

The Kelowna Rockets withstood a third period barrage, hanging on for a 6-5 victory over the visiting Prince George Cougars Tuesday night.

The Rockets built up what appeared to be a comfortable 6-2 lead after 40 minutes, but the Cougars clawed their way back in the third.

Ryan Schoettler and Rhett Rhinehart cut into the deficit before the the midway mark of the third, then Jared Bethune scored shorthanded late in the period to make the final four minutes a little more interesting.

But, they were unable to complete the comeback.

Dillon Dube and Carsen Twarynski each scored twice for the Rockets. Liam Kindree and Erik Gardiner, with his first goal since Oct. 14, also scored for Kelowna.

Kindree had two assists to go with his goal, while Cal Foote also chipped in with a pair of helpers.

The Rockets outshot Prince George 34-32 over the course of the evening.

Brodan Salmond turned away 27 shots for the victory.

Tuesday's win moves the Rockets three points up on Victoria and eight better than Vancouver atop the BC Division. Kelowna holds a game in hand on the Royals.

The Rockets host Seattle Friday and Kamloops Saturday to close out their four-game homestand.


Rockets fall in shootout

Home hasn't exactly been kind of late to the Kelowna Rockets.

The Rockets dropped their second in a row on home ice for the first time since mid-October, a 3-2 shootout loss to the lowly Edmonton Oil Kings.

They have now dropped three of their last five at home. Overall, they've won just three of their last nine, although two of those losses did come in extra time.

Trey Fix-Wolansky played the role of hero for the Oil Kings, scoring the lone goal in the shootout.

Fix-Wolanskyo went out wide to the left, cut to the middle of the ice, and beat James Porter to the blocker side.

Twice, the Rockets led Saturday, and twice the Oil Kings were able to come back and tie it.

Cal Foote got the Rockets on the board early in the first with a one-timer from the left point. The goal was his 15th of the season.

Connor McDonald tied it for the Oil Kings before the period ended.

Braydn Chizen restored the one goal lead six minutes into the second when his wrist shot hit something in front of the net and deflected past Todd Scott in the Edmonton net.

Former Rocket Tomas Soustal got that one back 10 minutes later when his shot from the slot beat Porter on the short side.

Both goaltenders stood tall the rest of the way, forcing the extra period.

"We got what we deserved," said Rockets head coach Jason Smith following the defeat.

"We didn't play good enough to win the game, plain and simple. We played the game tonight like we were exhausted, tired and slow."

Smith said the team didn't compete and battle well enough around the net to score any goals.

The single point Saturday allowed the Rockets to remain a single point up on the second place Victoria Royals in the BC Division. The Royals edged Vancouver 4-3 Saturday.

The Rockets continue their four game homestand Tuesday when the Prince George Cougars come to town.

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