Rockets fall in possible playoff preview

Playoff hockey was on display at Prospera Place Friday as the Kelowna Rockets and Edmonton Oil Kings engaged in an old fashioned, hard nosed, in your face tussle.

The Oil Kings got the better of the Rockets 3-2 in a shootout as Mitchell Moroz buried a shot low to the blocker side on Jordon Cooke.

It was the only goal of the shootout as Myles Bell, Damon Severson and Merek Tvrdon all failed to beat Tristan Jarry in the Edmonton net.

Bell on an early power-play and Carter Rigby late in the second scored in regulation time for the Rockets while Cole Benson and Brett Pollock on an Oil Kings power-play replied for Edmonton.

The Rockets thought they might have won the game with 4.6 seconds left in overtime when Ryan Olsen broke in all alone. His initial shot was stopped by the right pad of Jarry, however, Olsen got his stick on the rebound and pushed it into Jarry as he slid into the net.

Replays appeared to show the puck over the line at about the same time as the net became dislodged.

Rockets fans chanted goal, goal, goal during a four or five minute review, however, replay officials ruled as the officials had on the ice - no goal.

"They (referees) just say that basically the decision was made up top. You can't really argue anything with them because the call is made from up top," says Rockets head coach Ryan Huska of the decision.

The last second call wasn't all that got under the skin of the 5,100 partisan Rocket fans in attendance Friday.

They were none too happy with several calls and non-calls that went against the home team.

"You don't want to take a lot of penalties but I liked that we some more edge in the latter part of the game," says Huska.

"I think they missed some calls the other way to be honest with you. I thought there was a lot in front of the net that they were allowed to get away with that led to some other things."

Bell got the Rockets off to the start they wanted when he faked a slapshot, moved to the top of the left circle and loaded up on a wrist shot that found the far corner.

It was Bell's 36th of the season.

The Oil Kings responded four minutes later when Cole Benson buried his own rebound past a sprawling Jordon Cooke.

Cooke misplayed the puck behind his own net to set up the goal. Brandon Ralph found Benson alone in front for the tying goal.

Brett Pollock gave the Oil Kings their first lead of the night six minutes into the second just as a five-on-three advantage has expired.

Rigby tied it late in the second when he muscled his way around Edmonton defenceman Cody Corbett and buried a backhand past Jarry.

Neither team managed much in the way of offence in the third, however Cooke was forced to make a key save off Curtis Lazar from in close while Rockets Kris Schmidli rang a shot off the bar from a sharp angle with three minutes left in regulation time.

The Oil Kings were the better team in the first period taking the game physically to the Rockets.

Kelowna gave as good as they got over the final 40 minutes.

"The second and third periods were better hockey for us - that's playoff style hockey," says Huska.

"They have a very good team, a very heavy team and the first period I don't think we were ready for how they play. After that I thought we were much better because we played with a little more attitude or edge to us."

It will be much the same Saturday when the Rockets host another tough, physical team in the Victoria Royals.

"Another team that's a big, heavy team where we have to be focused on winning our puck battles. That will be important for us," says Huska.

Rigby agrees the Royals are always tough to play against.

"They are a team that all four lines can play - they're a deep squad that compete hard," says Rigby.

"They block shots. They have three or forwards that can definitely bury it if they get opportunities and a good goalie. We won't be surprised with what they bring."

Following Saturday's game the Rockets will welcome in the Seattle Thunderbirds for a rare 2 p.m. holiday Monday matinee.


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