Rockets slay Giants

Carsen Twarynski and Kyle Topping each scored twice and the Kelowna Rockets won their fourth in a row Friday, 5-2 over the Vancouver Giants in Langley.

Twarynski got the Rockets rolling with a shorthanded effort midway through the opening period. He doubled the lead less than three minutes later on a Rockets power play.

Gordie Ballhorn's sixth of the season made it 3-0 before the first period ended.

Ty Ronning, who recently inked an entry-level contract with the NHL New York Rangers, scored the lone goal of the second, his 61st of the season.

Topping restored the three goal lead 10 minutes into the third then, after Vancouver narrowed the deficit, hit the empty net with a little more than a minute to go to seal the victory.

Brodan Salmond turned away 37 shots to pick up the victory.

The Rockets played Friday without Dillon Dube, Kole Lind and Cal Foote. All three were given the night off after the Rockets clinched the BC Division title Wednesday.

The Rockets will close out the regular season Saturday when they entertain the same Giants at Prospera Place.

Kelowna will sport special St. Patrick's Day jerseys for the game. The sweaters will be given away to lucky fans following the game.


Rockets clinch BC title

Cal Foote scored twice and Nolan Foote returned to the lineup with a goal and an assist as the Kelowna Rockets clinched the BC Division title with a 6-3 win over the visiting Prince George Cougars.

Kaeden Korczak, Dillon Dube and Braydyn Chizen also scored in a game that quickly deteriorated into a series of cheap shots, head shots and a parade to the penalty box.

Joel Lakusta and Cam MacPhee of the Cougars are likely done for the season after receiving checking to the head and intent to injure penalties respectively during one of several melees in the third period. Dube was on the receiving end of Lakusta's high cross check, and was fortunate his hands were up to protect himself when the blow came.

Moments earlier, Jackson Leppard was assessed just a two minute slashing penalty for a wicked two-hander at the chest of Erik Gardiner.

Much of the rough stuff came with the game still tight.

"The emotions of teenage kids can change in a hurry, but you don't want to see our guys get hurt and you don't want to see guys from their team get hurt," said head coach Jason Smith.

"The physical part in a game like that, you just hope it stays under control and you end up walking away with a clean sheet. None of our guys got hurt from the hits they took and the power plays did give us some momentum to finish them off.

Despite all the penalties the Rockets were unable to take advantage on the power play, missing the net as much as they hit it.

It was that kind of game for the Rockets who, despite getting 50 shots were not as sharp offensively as they have been previously this season.

"The first two period were a little big sloppy. We managed to get the puck to the net a lot but didn't have a lot of second and third opportunities," said Smith.

And Kole Lind, looking to hit the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his WHL career, missed the net or didn't get a shot away on four glorious chances including two half open nets in the first period and a breakaway in the second.

Lind has 38 goals on the season with two games left.

The game was tied at 1-1 after one with the Cougars scoring the only goal of the second off the stick of former Rocket Brogan O'Brien.

But, five straight in the third, starting with Korczak's fourth on a wrist shot from the right point that hit something in front, spelled the difference.

But, regardless how they got their, the Rockets were able to clinch the BC Division for the first time in three years.

"It means a lot to be the top team in a great division," said Nolan Foote.

"For the guys, everyone is excited..we're excited to have a banner and we're looking forward to it."

The Rockets will close out the regular season with back-to-back games against the Vancouver Giants Friday in Langley and Saturday back at Prospera Place.

Then, it's off to the post season.

The Rockets will open the first round at home against either the Tri-City Americans or Seattle Thunderbirds.

Regardless of the opponent, the first two games will be played at Prospera Place next Thursday and Saturday.

Rockets complete sweep

Make it a perfect eight for eight for the Kelowna Rockets in their season series with the rival Kamloops Blazers.

For the first time in five year, the Rockets swept the Blazers in the season series, closing it out Saturday with a 4-0 win on WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry night at Prospera Place.

The win, the Rockets second in as many nights against the Blazers, puts Kelowna win away from clinching the BC Division title for the first time in three seasons.

Leif Mattson scored twice, including his third shorthanded marker of the season. Gordie Ballhorn had a goal and a helper while Dillon Dube also scored. James Porter turned away 18 shots for his third goose egg of the season.

Unlike the past month when the Rockets had trouble holding on to leads and closing out games, they never let up Saturday after building up a 2-0 first period lead on a team that was officially eliminated from playoff contention Friday.

"We did the little things right and kept the puck out of our net," said Mattson.

"If we do that obviously we are going to win the game."

He said the team focused on playing a good "team game," and not worry about individual accomplishments.

"We started playing playoff hockey which we have to do down the stretch.

"That's going to give us success heading into the first round."

Mattson got the Rockets on the board first, converting a pretty three -way passing play with Dube and Carson Twarynski.

Ballhorn doubled the lead before the end of the period. Off a faceoff, Ballhorn just flipped the puck toward the Kamloops net from the left point. The puck seemed to handcuff Max Palags who whiffed on the shot.

After a scoreless second, The Blazers appeared as if they may have hit the scoresheet on a power play early in the third.

The shot from the left point hit the near goal post, rolled along the line, hit the far post and stayed out. The goal light went on, but after a brief review, the replay officials determined the puck had not crossed the line.

Shortly after,. Mattson made it 3-0 on a partial breakaway with the Rockets shorthanded. He fakes a slapshot from the right circle,  the slid the puck five-hole for his 23rd of the campaign.

Dube tipped home his 34th moments later when Kole Lind settled a loose puck at the blue line, turned and let go a weak shot that appeared to change direction past a startled Palaga.

"Despite the lopsided record between the two team this season,. Rockets coach Jason Smith said there was no reason to believe the Blazers wouldn't be ready to compete.

"They are a team that competes and plays hard every night. They didn't have have the year they probably would have wanted, but they compete and play the game.

"We knew we needed to be ready to play and be ready to compete. If we didn't do that, the result would have been the other way."

The Rockets are back at it again Wednesday when the Prince George Cougars make their final trip into Prospera Place.

The Rockets will either have a chance to clinch the BC Division title, or will be division champions if the Victoria Royals fall to the Spokane Chiefs in regulation time Sunday in the provincial capital.

Rockets find winning form

The Kelowna Rockets snapped a five-game losing streak, and, in the process, moved a step closer to clinching the Western Hockey League's BC Division title.

The Rockets' top three scorers all hit the scoresheet Friday in a 4-2 victory in Kamloops. The win keeps Kelowna three points better than the second place Victoria Royals, who edged Prince George 4-3 in overtime.

With four games left in the regular season, the Rockets can clinch their first division title in three years with any combination of wins or Victoria losses totalling two.

Marek Skverne got the Rockets on the board six minutes into the opening period with a shorthanded marker. It was just his third of the season.

Carsen Twarynski's 43rd, on a two-on-zero break with Dillon Dube seven minutes into the second, doubled the lead.

The Blazezrs hit the scoresheet two minutes later when Orrin Centazzo converted on a penalty shot.

But, Dube notched his 33rd minutes later, one-timing a pass from Kyle Topping on a power play to make it 3-1.

Kole Lind iced it late in the third with his 38th before Nolan Kneen with the Rockets two men short beat Brodan Salmond to close out the scoring.

The two teams close out the home-and-home weekend Saturday at Prospera Place.

The game is Suits Up with Don Cherry night.

The Rockets will be wearing special jerseys inspired by Don Cherry for the game. The jerseys are being auctioned off, with proceeds going to the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

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