Nolan Foote played just a period in his return to the Kelowna lineup

Rockets lose game, captain

It was not the way the Kelowna Rockets had hoped to celebrate Family Day

They hoped a return of captain Nolan Foote to the lineup would be the spark the team needed as it looked to hit the win column again.

Foote did return, but did not return after the first period in what seems to be related to the lower body injury that has prevented him from playing all but a few shifts since returning from the world junior championship.

To make matters worse, the Rockets imploded in the final 20 minutes, giving up four unanswered goals and the winner in overtime in a 6-5 setback at the hands of the visiting Calgary Hitmen.

Foote last played a full game Dec. 7 before leaving for Canada's junior team. Upon returning, he played a few shifts in Kamloops Jan. 10, but nothing since.

“He was sore. All along it was, if he felt sore to step out and he did,” said president and GM Bruce Hamilton following the game Monday.

“After the trade occurred (Sunday), the agent for Nolan contacted New Jersey about where Foote was at and if he was cleared to play. We were following the Tampa Bay protocol, which was when he felt comfortable to be back and have a week of skating and two days of contact and then on restricted play.

"Permission was given by New Jersey’s general manager today, because of the trade occurring last night, we didn’t know where we were at. In our mind, everything was going to start over. We’ll find out more from New Jersey this week.”

As for the game, it was scoreless until defenceman Connor McDonald got Kelowna rolling midway through the second. After stepping out of the penalty box, McDonald drove down the left wing, and saw his pass from a sharp angle deflect in off a Calgary defenceman.

It was the first time the Rockets have opened the scoring in eight games.

Moments later, the Rockets stripped a defender from the puck. Jonas Peterek threw it in front where Matthew Wedman banged home a goal to make it 2-0.

After the Hitmen cut the deficit in half, the Rockets exploded with three goals in a little more than two-and-a-half minutes.

Alex Swetlikoff with the man advantage, Ethen Ernst and Dillon Hamaliuk staked the Rockets to a 5-1 lead.

The Hitmen, led by a pair of Vancouver Canuck prospects, roared back in the third.

Carson Focht scored twice, including the game-tying goal with 95 seconds left in regulation, while defenceman Jett Woo added a pair of assists.

Kyle Olson also scored twice in the third as the Hitmen outshot Kelowna 18-4 to force overtime.

Josh Prokop took a stretch pass from Woo in overtime, and beat Roman Basran on a partial breakaway to complete the comeback.

The Rockets, who have lost 13 of their last 16, head on the road for four straight. They are in Prince George for back-to-back games Friday and Saturday before moving on to Victoria for a pair of games next Tuesday and Wednesday.

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