Royals, the Rocket killers strike again
The Victoria Royals have been the Kelowna Rockets kryptonite all season long.
The Royals struck again Saturday night erasing a two goal deficit in a 6-4 victory over a Rockets team that seems to have lost its edge of late.
Victoria has won all three meeting between the two teams at Prospera Place and hold a 4
Kelowna has lost back-to-back games for the second time in just under two weeks and have dropped four of their last seven.
Over this stretch the Rockets have sagged over the last 20 or 30 minutes.
"Part of it - I look at our group and when our defence are playing their best and confident we don't have a lot of problems getting out of our own zone," says Rockets head coach Ryan Huska.
"When you look at some of the mistakes we are making right now - I go back to not moving your feet and tying to complicate things and that's where a few of our defencemen are right now. Instead of keeping things simple and working harder I find us a little bit lazy on our back end right now."
The teams were tied 3-3 heading into the final period Saturday when Victoria scored goals 25 seconds apart early in the period. The Rockets were unable to find a way back.
Steven Hodges mad it 4-3 when he grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone, stepped over the blueline and sent a harmless wrist shot that snuck between Jordon Cooke's body and his left arm.
Cooke, who faced 42 shots, including 20 in the final period, took the loss hard and personally.
"I think I kind of got the team a loss tonight so I would rather take the blame myself than those guys in there," says Cooke, a statement refuted by his head coach.
"We were down 5-3, we score that goal and pretty much right after that they come right back and get three or four grade A chances that he made saves on," says Huska.
"Good on him but it's not a goaltenders fault. Typically, it's the guys that are playing in front of him most nights."
The Rockets jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Carter Rigby (14th) and Tyson Baillie (22nd) before the midway point of the opening period.
The Royals got one of those back on a late first period power-play then tied it when Jordan Fransoo's point show deflected off a Rockets' stick past Cooke.
Colton Heffley and Austin Carroll traded goals 34 seconds apart midway through the third sending the teams into the locker room tied 3-3.
It was the Royals who had all the energy in the third period.
"We looked like a team that got frustrated and our energy level wasn't great in the second and third period," says Huska.
"Victoria plays a good, hard game. They don't give you a lot and when you do make mistakes they make you pay and they did in the third period."
The fact the Rockets were 0-8 on the power-play didn't help matters either.
The Rockets were again playing their third game in four nights - the third weekend in a row they have endured that type of schedule. Since Christmas, the Rockets have played 22 games in 44 days.
While Huska won't pin the play of late on fatigue, he does say players need to play differently if they are feeling less than energized.
"Players when they are feeling not that energized or they don't have the energy they normally would like to have they play the game smart," says Huska.
That's really what it comes down to so if you have to glass it out and keep your game simple during those times then do that. That's the things we are not doing right now."
Things don't get any easier for the Rockets (43-8-0-4) who host Seattle Monday afternoon at 2 p.m.
The T-Birds have won two of three against the Rockets including a 4-3 shootout win in Kelowna at the beginning of the season.
The Rockets led atop the Western Hockey League standings is also down to nine points over the red hot Portland Winterhawks and Edmonton Oil Kings.
Portland is 13-0-0-1 in their last 14 while Edmonton has won 11 in a row.
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