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.

More WHL articles