Rockets hang on, go up 3-0

Justin Kirkland's power-play goal on a breakaway six minutes into the third stood up as the game winner as the Kelowna Rockets hung on for a 5-4 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds Tuesday.

The win gives the Rockets a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven WHL Western Conference semi-final series.

The Rockets can wrap it up in Seattle Wednesday.

Kirkland's backhand goal gave the Rockets a 5-2 lead, however, the T-Birds battled back with goals from Justin Hickman on a power-play and Alexander Delnov with 1:17 to go to make it close.

Seattle was unable to get the equalizer with goaltender Taran Kozun on the bench for an extra attacker.

The Rockets can thank their penalty killers in part for ensuring they skated away with the one goal victory.

The Rockets were shorthanded 10 times and, on two occasions, had to kill off a five-on-three when the game was scoreless in the opening period.

"Those guys paid the price and did a good job," assistant coach Dan Lambert said of the penalty killers on the post game radio broadcast.

Lambert says the penalties forced the Rockets to shorten their bench during those occasions and said they simply ran out of gas in the latter half of the third period.

Ryan Olsen and Tyrell Goulbourne scored 24 second apart late in the first period to give the Rockets a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Tyson Baillie scored in the middle frame as Kelowna took a 4-1 lead into the final period.

Damon Severson, who earlier in the day was named CHL Player of the Week picked up a pair of assists giving him three goals and six assists over the first three games of the series.

Bowey had an assist to go with his goal while Marek Tvrdon added a pair of assists.

Kelowna went 2-5 with the man advantage while Seattle was just 1-10.

Each team managed 32 shots on goal.

Should Seattle win Wednesday to extend the series beyond four games a fifth game would be played Friday night at Prospera Place.

Meantime, earlier in the day Tuesday four members of the Rockets found themselves on the NHL Central Scouting's final rankings of players eligible for the June entry draft.

Justin Kirkland was listed as the 67th North American skater, while Riley Stadel was ranked 99th, Rourke Chartier 136th and Tyson Baillie 141st.

A rookie, Kirkland had 17 goals 31 assists and 48 points in his first full Western Hockey League season. The 6-foot-3 forward is a native of Camrose, AB.

Stadel, a defenceman from Surrey, scored 10 goals and added 25 assists in the regular season for the Rockets and is in his second full season with the team.

Chartier, from Saskatoon, had 24 goals and 34 assists in playing in all 72 regular season games with the Rockets this season, his second season with the club.

From Fort Saskatchewan, Baillie missed a few games to injury this season but still amassed 22 goals and 33 assists for 55 points in 56 games.


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