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WHL  

Rockets leave Giants green

Decked out in green for St. Patrick's Day, the Kelowna Rockets didn't need the luck of the Irish when they hosted the Vancouver Giants in their regular season home ice finale Friday.

The Rockets beat the Giants for the 24th straight time at Prospera Place, a convincing, albeit ugly at times, 7-0 win.

The Rockets scored early, and often, but suffered from some mental lapses on the defensive side of the puck that forced Michael Herringer into some spectacular saves to preserve his second goose egg of the season.

Reid Gardiner, who saw his 15 game point streak end in Wednesday's loss to Everett, opened the scoring just 52 seconds in with what would stand up as the game winner. Nick Merkley faked a slapshot from the high slot, then feathered a perfect pass to Gardiner who tapped in his 17th of the season.

Nolan Foote on a rebound on a Kelowna power play made it 2-0 before the end of the first.

Rodney Southam deflected home his 8th on a power play six minutes into the second, then, just 13 seconds later, Kyle Topping converted Kole Lind's pass on a two-on-one to make it 4-0.

Cue the fisticuffs.

Four separate fights broke out during the latter stages of the second, including Nolan Foote's first Western Hockey League tilt, a spirited affair against fellow rookie Tyler Popowich.

The game settled down in the third as goals from Southam with his second, James Hilsendager and Lind with his first in 10 games rounding out the scoring.

Lind had three assists to go along with his goal while Nick Merkley picked up a pair of helpers. Nolan Foote also picked up an assist to cap off the Gordie Ballhorn hat trick.

Herringer turned aside all 21 shots he faced in picking up the win.

The win allowed the Rockets to clinch at least second place in the BC Division, but kept them two points in back of division  leading Prince George.

The Cougars beat Kamloops 3-1 Friday to hold on to the slim lead.

The Cougars finish the season at home against Kamloops Saturday while the Rockets finish up Saturday against the same Giants in Langley.



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