Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants renew acquaintances this weekend

Rockets, Giants Round 2

Seems the Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants can't get enough of each other these days.

Fresh off splitting a home-and-home series last weekend, the clubs are set to do it all over again this weekend.

The two teams will face off against each other tonight in Langley before a return engagement Saturday at Prospera Place.

Last weekend, the Rockets won 4-1 in Langley before falling 4-3 the falling night on home ice.

The Rockets have struggled since returning from the Christmas break, going 2-11 over that span.

On home ice, they are just 1-8-1-0 in their last 10 dating back to Nov. 26.

Their recent stumbles have dropped them into a tie with the Victoria Royals for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Rockets do hold three games in hand.

The Giants meantime are an even 5-5 since returning from the break. seventh in the west, nine up on the Rockets but just three points in back of Everett and Tri-City who share fourth.

Andrew Cristall and newly acquired Ty Hurley are both expected to miss the weekend as they recover from lower-body-injuries. Both are listed as week-to-week.

Cristall has missed seven games while Hurley has been sidelined for six.

Kelowna Rocket forward Andrew Cristall will miss this week's Top Prospects game

Injury sidelines Cristall

An injury will keep Kelowna Rockets forward Andrew Cristall out of this week's Top Prospects game in Langley.

Cristall, listed as day-to-day on the injury report with a lower body injury, has missed the last six games.

He suffered the injury during a game Jan. 7 in Kamloops.

Cristall is expected to be a first round selection when the NHL holds its entry draft in Nashville next June.

He leads the Rockets in scoring with 26 goals and 36 assists in 36 games

The Canadian Hockey League announced Monday London Knights forward Denver Barkey will replace Cristall at the game.

The Rockets will still be represented at the prospects game. Defenceman Caden Price will take the ice Wednesday in Langley.

Rockets fall to 2-11 since Christmas following lacklustre loss to Victoria

Rockets slump deepens

The Kelowna Rockets continue to tumble down the Western Conference standings.

Sunday, the Rockets saw their post-Christmas record fall to 2-11 in an uninspiring 5-1 defeat at the hands of the charging Victoria Royals.

Victoria's win moved them into a tie with the Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the west.

Kelowna also slipped to 1-8-1-0 in their last 10 at home.

It was the third game in as many days for the Rockets, but the Royals, who had to travel overnight from Spokane were facing the same scenario.

"We should have been the fresher.. team, we should have been the hungrier team," said head coach Kris Mallette.

"They came as advertised. The first goal they got was what they do...they throw a puck into the neutral zone, get a good bounce, hoping a guy is cheating on the wrong side of it and sure enough that happened.

"Then our inability to play physical to stop the play while a team is skating circles around us."

The game was even until late in the first when the Royals scored three times in a span of three minutes and 10 seconds.

Teydon Trembecky skated onto a loose puck down the right wing and beat Talyn Boyko with a rising shot from the bottom of the right circle.

Marcus Almquist from the slot with what proved to be the winner, and Robin Sapoursek 62 seconds later with a backdoor one-timer gave the Royals a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.

There was no urgency in the Rockets game in the second period when they threw just five shots toward Braden Holt, or in the third when they were down five and managed just four shots.

Defenceman Jackson DeSouza spoiled Holt's shutout bid with his fifth of the season with three minutes left and the Rockets putting forth their most sustained pressure of the night.

Despite their recent troubles, Mallette says he remains positive the team will pull out of it.

"I'm not giving up on our group by any means

"We made some progress. Obviously we would have loved to have had two or three of these wins this weekend, but our group will be OK, we're going to get there.

"It's going to take some work and we're going to have to get back to it."

The Rockets are now off until the weekend when they again face the Vancouver Giants in back-to-back games Friday in Langley and Saturday back at Prospera Place.

Leading scorer Andrew Cristall missed his sixth game with a lower body injury.

Rockets dropped their eighth in nine games at home Saturday

Turnovers Rockets' curse

Turnovers. They're great after dinner but not so much on the giving end of a hockey game.

The Vancouver Giants scored three times directly off Rockets' turnovers in a 4-3 victory at Prospera Pace Saturday night.

The game was deadlocked at 1-1 after 20 minutes, but a sloppy second allowed the Giants to take all the momentum and a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.

"The second period was the difference tonight. Turnovers is one thing, but for 13 minutes in the second period we were non existent," said head coach Kris Mallette.

"We gave them momentum and never got it back. We had a push at the end, but it's a 60 minute game. The decisions we made with the puck played right into their hands"

The Rockets got off to a great start. While shorthanded, Turner McMillen stole the puck at his own blueline, streaked down the ice and deked Brett Mirwald to the backhand.

Matthew Edwards got that one back a minute later when he intercepted a clearing pass in the slot and sent a quick shot off the post and in behind Talyn Boyko.

Ty Halaburda put the Giants up for good on a second period power play when a clearing attempt found his stick in the low slot.

Connor Dale got another gift six minutes into the third picking off an attempt to clear around the end boards. He took the puck to the front of the net and banked a shot off a Rocket skate and in.

Adam Kydd scored a pair of goals in the third, the first a diving swipe at a loose puck near the edge of the crease and another when he tapped home a rebound after Carson Golder crashed the net off the right wing.

Those were sandwiched around a power play goal from Ty Thorpe.

The Rockets had a chance to get the equalizer with a two-man advantage for 50 seconds, but were unable to generate any good scoring chances.

Mallette said the Giants didn't do anything special, they just made the Rockets have to go through them, which they were unable to do.

"To have the effort we had tonight compared to last night and the execution that we had last night...it's just junior hockey.

"It makes a coach go crazy because we were so much better in all facets last night and tonight in front of our home crowd we just didn't get it done.

The Rockets finished 0-4 with the man advantage while the Giants went 2-4.

The Rockets will host Jake Poole and the Royals Sunday afternoon at 4 to close out a three game weekend.

Poole is one of two former Rockets who lead their respective teams in scoring. He comes into Sunday with 24 goals and 50 points.

Trevor Wong, who was dealt to Saskatoon in the Colton Dach trade, leads the Blades with 55 points. Saskatoon will make their lone trek into Kelowna Feb. 11.

More WHL articles