Rockets prevail in testy affair
The Victoria Royals may have lost more than just a hockey game at Prospera Place Wednesday night.
In falling 4-2 to the Rockets, the Royals may have also lost the services of forward Ben Walker for an extended period of time.
The 19-year-old Edina MN native was wheeled off the ice in a stretcher after he was inadvertently levelled to the ice by teammate Tyler Stahl.
Just seconds after scoring the Royals second goal of the game six minutes into the final period, Walker and Rockets forward Tyrell Goulbourne were tied up together at the Royals blueline when Stahl charged at Goulbourne and threw a high, hard check.
Goulbourne got out of the way putting Stahl on a collision course with his teammate.
Walker hit the ice hard and lay motionless for a few minutes before beginning to move his right leg.
Medical personnel in the building attended to Walker for about 15 minutes before ambulance attendants arrived, placed him on a backboard then a stretcher and took him to Kelowna General Hospital.
Royals head coach Dave Lowry told reporters after the game he thought Walker may have briefly lost consciousness.
He also said he was told by medical personnel Walker was kept on the ice for precautionary reasons.
Rockets coach Ryan Huska said after the game while his thoughts and those of the Rockets organization are with Walker, he believes the hit was not clean.
"I thought there was a forearm high to the head and a guy leaving his feet and unfortunately someone got hurt on that play," says Huska.
"Those are scary situations so our thoughts are going to go to him tonight and hopefully he's going to recover and be just fine. It's a scary sight to see."
The hit was just one of several clean and not so clean hits throughout what was a very physical hockey game - a game in which the Rockets were able to take advantage of opportunities afforded them on the power-play.
The Rockets built up a 3-1 lead on power-play goals from Zach Franko, Myles Bell and Tyson Baillie with what turned out to be the game winner.
Colton Sissons scored the other goal at even strength midway through the middle frame giving the Rockets a 4-1 lead at the time.
Sissons, playing just his second game after missing 10 games with a concussion was also involved in a first period fight when he was challenged after what was a hard, clean check in the offensive zone.
Huska says he wasn't concerned seeing Sissons get into the scrap so soon after the injury.
"Colton is never going to change the way he plays. To me he was by far the best player on the ice and he's our captain for a reason," says Huska.
"I've said it many times that our team has changed this year because of him - the way he plays the game and his approach to it. I never want any player to go into a situation where they might get hurt and Colton is included in that."
While the Rockets were deadly on the power-play early Huska felt the team did not play the way they are capable of five-on-five.
He says the Royals physical brand of hockey was part of the reason.
"That's one area I think we have to do a better job of is answering the right way. I think when we use our speed, when we're moving our feet and finishing our checks, we're a difficult team to play against," added Huska.
"I thought we sat back a little bit too much and allowed them to take that game to us."
Jordon Cooke, also playing just his second game after missing four with an injury, was sharp when he needed to be turning aside 30 shots as the Royals outshot the Rockets 32-25.
Cooke credited the power-play for coming up big in the win.
"Our power-play was going tonight. Whenever the power-play is going like that it gives us a chance to win," says Cooke.
The penalty kill was also a big factor as the Rockets turned aside all nine Victoria power-plays.
"We came out with some big blocks during those penalty kills."
Wednesday's win improved the Rockets home winning streak to 15 games. They're 20-4 overall since the end of October.
The Rockets will try to keep things rolling when they travel up north for a pair of games Friday and Saturday in Prince George.
The two teams split back-to-back games the last time the two teams met in Prince George back in early October.
Kelowna returns home to host the same Victoria Royals next Wednesday and the Tri-City Americans Friday.
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