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WHL  

Rockets' unlikely weekend

The Kelowna Rockets were mired in a six-game losing streak, they had lost their way and their confidence.

Coming into the weekend, not many expected them to right the ship against the top two teams in the Western Hockey League - let alone come away with four points.

But, as the old adage goes...that's why they ;play the games.

The Rockets, fresh off an impressive 2-0 win over the Western Conference-leading Everett Silvertips Friday, backed it up with a thrilling 4-3 shootout win over the number one team in the CHL, the Prince Albert Raiders.

Nolan Foote was the offensive hero for the Rockets He had a hand in all three regulation-time goals, scoring once and setting up two others.

Then, after almost stumbling on his way to the net, Foote scored the only goal in the shootout, beating Team Canada goaltender Ian Scott along the ice.

"I came wide and I wanted to cut back to see what angle I had on the goalie...that would have been really embarrassing if I fell," said Foote.

"I heard the crowd and I kept going, and scored."

In explaining the sudden turnaround, coach Adam Foote credits some of that to a team dinner Thursday night in Everett.

We came together at that dinner in Everett the night before, said the coach.

"We really came together and had a fun game. I had never seen us interact like that and care for each other."

Prior to that, Foote thought the team has fallen flat over the previous three games and felt sorry for themselves.

"No one took initiative and had ownership.

"I hope it was rock bottom that skid we went on. We almost had to hit it...we had to come together. It was either sink or swim."

In the opening period Saturday, it looked like the Raiders might run the Rockets out of their own building.

A dozen seconds in, the Raiders showed off their team speed, creating a two-on-one. Newly acquired Matt Barberis laid out to block the shot, and prevent what looked to be a sure goal.

They did get the opening, as Aliaksei Portas banged home a rebound from the doorstep. Brett Leason created the rebound, knocking the puck out of the air onto Roman Basran's pads.

The goal was reviewed to determine whether the stick was too high. The result was inconclusive.

The Rockets tied it, then took the lead against the flow of play. Kyle Topping notched his 17th when he powered through a defenceman and, with one hand on his stick, slid the puck toward Scott.

The shot hit Scott's pad and trickled in.

Foote gave the Rockets their first lead, lasering home a wrist shot from the left circle high to the short side.

Basran, the game's number one star, was outstanding in the period, turning away 10 shots. The defence also blocked a number of attempts as the Raiders buzzed around the Kelowna net much of the period.

The Rockets pushed back during a n even second period, but it was the Raiders who got the only goal when former Royal Dante Hannoun beat Basran with a quick shot from the low slot.

Parker Kelly put the Raiders on top in the third, converting a three-on-two with a shot high to the short side that went off Basran's shoulder and in.

The goal stood up until Lassi Thomson wired his 10th with a rocket from the top of the left circle on a power play.

With the team's playing four-on-three, Thomson took the puck near the right point and drifted backwards toward the left circle with his stick cocked, ready to unload at any time.

When he found a seam, he let go a howitzer Scott probably still hasn't seen.

To the casual observer, it appeared the game pitted two teams who face each other often. The animosity and intensity on the ice matched any rivalry anywhere in the league.

The Rockets not only held their own on the ice, they did so physically as well.

Many of the Rockets now get a few days to rest up before another tough weekend. The Victoria Royals and Vancouver Giants both pay a visit to Prospera Place next Friday and Saturday.

For three Rockets, Foote, Thomson and Kaeden Korczak, there's one other game on their radar. All three will take part in next week's Top Prospects game in Red Deer.

Prior to Saturday's game, the Rockets honoured defenceman Josh Gorges. The captain of the Rockets in their Memorial Cup season of 2004, retired from professional hockey Monday.

Team president and GM Bruce Hamilton presented him with a set of custom golf clubs. Gorges shed a few tears during a video tribute from several former teammates, including Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Blake Comeau.



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