Rockets stomp on downtrodden Ams
Shots on goal are not always an indication of the dominance of one team over another in hockey.
Wednesday at Prospera Place - it told the entire story.
The Kelowna Rockets outshot the over-matched Tri-City Americans 39-10 over 40 minutes, building up a 5-0 lead en route to an easy 5-1 win over the American visitors.
The Rockets jumped on the Americans early taking over the game after a successful penalty kill two minutes into the contest. They were never threatened after that.
Goals from Tyrell Goulbourne, Myles Bell and Nick Merkley in a span of 3:24 midway through the first was all the scoring the Rockets would need.
Bell's goal was his career high 39th of the season.
Cole Linaker and defenceman Mitchell Wheaton rounded out the scoring in the middle frame.
The lone Tri-City goal came with 75 seconds left on the clock when Rodney Southam's quick wrist shot from the right faceoff circle seemed to surprise Jordon Cooke who was bidding for his third shutout of the season and the eighth of his career.
Linaker, the game's number one star, says he though the Rockets played a good team game for 60 minutes but felt bad for Jordon Cooke when that let goal got by him.
"I kind of felt bad for Cookie (Jordon Cooke) letting one in at the end. Just a small breakdown and that's what happens but I think we played a good team game tonight," says Linaker.
"Late in the game when you have a big lead like we did you want to play for your goalie and you want to get him the shutout. It's tough, not only for him but for us. You feel really bad when you have a breakdown and they get one on you."
The Rockets came at the Americans wave after wave and could have had five or six more had it not been for a couple of goal posts and some timely saves from 16-year-old rookie Evan Sarthou making just his 13th start of the season.
Head coach Ryan Huska says games where there is little or no push back from the opposition can be hard games to play.
"I think there is a tendency for bad habits to creep in but for the most part I thought we stuck with it - for two periods for sure," says Huska.
"It does make it a little challenging but I thought our older guys, our leadership group, did a pretty good job to make sure it didn't slide too far."
Aside from the goal Cooke was forced to make just two key saves, both off Salmon Arm native Lucas Nickles.
Cooke made a nifty glove save on a backhand from in close in the second period then robbed Nickles with a spectacular glove save on a shorthanded breakaway in the third.
The Rockets were forced to go with five defencemen for much of the game when rookie Joe Gatenby went down with a leg injury early in the contest.
Huska says the injury isn't serious.
"He'll be day-to-day. He's going to come on the (Prince George) trip with us and we've kind of expecting him to be in for at least one the games this weekend so it's nothing serious."
Wednesday's win, the Rockets fourth in a row, allows them to move seven points clear of the hard charging Portland Winterhawks for the number one seed in the Western Conference and the overall WHL standings.
The Winterhawks have won 17 in a row and have just one shootout loss in their last 19 overall.
With just 13 games to go in the regular season Huska says fending off the Winterhawks will be a challenge.
"The way we look at it they are not going to lose another game the rest of the way. That's what we fully expect is for them to run the board," says Huska of Portland.
"We don't want to make our focus anything big picture, we want it to be on our next game. If we can keep chipping away and doing our job each successive night then I think we will be fine."
The Rockets make their final northern trip of the season this weekend for games in Prince George Friday and Saturday.
They return home to host the same Cougars Tuesday before busing to Tri-City for a game the following night.
Meantime the Rockets, like every other hockey fan in the country will be watching with interest Friday morning when Canada and the US square off in the semi-final game at the Sochi Olympics.
No more so than Rockets defenceman Cole Martin, the lone American on the team who says he definitely wants bragging rights when all is said and done.
""I am a guy who is always messing with my teammates and giving them a hard time so I think if Canada beats the US they will definitely be giving it back to me."
For the record, Martin expects a tight game with the Americans coming out on top. Linaker called 3-2 Canada while Huska predicted 4-3 Canada.
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