Rockets hot start, shaky finish
The Kelowna Rockets rode one of their most inspired first periods of the season then had to hold for for dear life in a 4-3 win Wednesday over the visiting Red Deer Rebels.
The Rockets jumped all over the Rebels in the first period scoring twice in the opening 94 seconds to chase starter Taz Burman from the Red Deer net.
Burman allowed two goals on just four shots. Patrik Bartosak came on in relief giving up two goals on 37 shots.
Kris Schmidli, Marek Tvrdon, Austin Glover and Tyrell Goulbourne all scored for the Rockets in the opening period.
For Glover it was his first goal since the opening night of the season back on Sept 20. Glover returned to the line-up Wednesday after missing 43 games with a broken ankle.
"The first period was the best we've looked in a long time energy wise and playing the style we like to play," says Rockets head coach Ryan Huska.
"I thought we did a good job of trying to capitalize on them with the travel they had last night."
The Rockets outshot Red Deer 23-8 in that opening period and seemed to be primed for a relatively easy night.
The Rebels came on in the second period thanks in part to a power-play that extended 1:45 into the middle frame.
Both goaltenders were sharp in the second period, especially Jackson Whistle who stopped all 13 shots fired his way.
As good as Whistle was in the second he was that and more in the third despite giving up three goals.
The Rebels peppered Whistle with 19 shots, many good clean chances coming past the midway point of the period after Red Deer got on the board.
"It was (frantic). We battled in the end and were lucky to come out with the win," says Whistle.
"They didn't stop coming. Even though we were up 4-0 they were battling hard. Since the first period they were coming really strong and we just held on."
Even Polei and Aspen Sterzer scored 39 seconds apart midway through the third to pull the Rebels to within two. Sterzer's second of the night with less than two minutes to go made the finish more nerve wracking than it needed to be for the Rockets.
"Once we gave up a goal I thought they took over and we had to rely on Jackson too much," says Huska.
"They score, they get some momentum then we start making plays that weren't great plays that allowed them to build some more speed and feel like they had a chance to get in the game."
Huska was pleased with the way Glover played in his first game back since mid October.
"I thought he was pretty good. For his first game back he did a lot of good things, especially early," says Huska.
"It's not easy with the length of time he's been out but I thought his first game back was a good one."
The Rockets, 43-7-0-3 face a tough three in four weekend - all at home.
Kelowna host the red hot Edmonton Oil Kings Friday, the tough Victoria Royals Saturday and the streaking Seattle Thunderbirds Monday afternoon.
Edmonton, number one in the Central Division, have won nine in a row - Victoria, second in the BC Division, is 5-0-1-1 in its last seven while the T-Birds, winners of two of three against the Rockets, are 8-2 in their last 10.
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