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Prince George Cougars outworked and outgunned the Kelowna Rockets in a 2-1 win Tuesday

Rockets outworked in loss

It was not the typical Kelowna Rockets effort Tuesday night.

The Rockets were outplayed, outbattled and outworked at almost every turn in a 2-1 loss to the Prince George Cougars at Prospera Place.

"The Cougars won every battle. We were watching a lot of the game just hoping that somebody else would do the work, and left a lot of our players out on islands by themselves," said head coach Kris Mallette.

"Credit to the Cougars, they played a very disciplined team game. They blocked a lot of shots. Their compete was there from the get-go."

The loss snapped a string of six straight in which the Rockets had secured at least a point in the standings.

The lone Rockets goal came late in the game when Mark Liwiski did battle for position in front of Taylor Gauthier, grabbed a bouncing puck with his back to the net, spun and fired a shot that eluded the Cougars netminder.

Koehn Ziemmer opened the scoring seven minutes into the game. He picked up a loose puck along the right boards, curled toward the slot, and lifted a backhand from the bottom of the faceoff circle that seemed to surprise Cole Schwebius.

Connor Bowie doubled the lead five minutes into the second.

With the Rockets on the power play, Gauthier made a great stop off Alex Swetlikoff on a deflection in tight. Bowie scooped up the puck and raced down the right wing on a two-on-one.

He looked off the pass and beat Schwebius to the far side.

It was one of five power play opportunities which went for naught for the Rockets on the evening.

"Taylor Gauthier is a very, very good goaltender when he is able to see the puck. I think we had 30 shots, and I would say at least a dozen of them, he was just standing there to catch it. No traffic, no nothing," said Mallette.

"A lot of our goals this year came from the blue paint and today unfortunately our players felt we had to play on the outside hoping to get a puck rather than doing the work."

The Rockets pulled Schwebius with just over two minutes left but were unable to generate any really good chances with the extra attacker.

Tuesday's loss snapped a string of six straight in which the Rockets had picked up at least one point in the standings.

The Rockets get a few days off before heading to Kamloops for games against Vancouver Friday and Prince George Sunday.

They'll close out the abbreviated season at home with games against Kamloops Monday and Victoria next Wednesday.



Western Hockey league expects to push back the date of the annual bantam draft

WHL to hold late draft

It would appear as if the Western Hockey League won't hold its bantam draft at the usual time.

The draft of 15-year-old prospects is typically held in May of each year, however, different protocols around COVID-19 in various provinces and states has meant some leagues have been able to play while others have not.

In order to give players an opportunity to show off their abilities, Kelowna Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton says the league is looking at a draft sometime later in the year.

Hamilton and the rest of the league GM's held a conference call Tuesday to discuss the draft.

He says the concept of a later draft will now be forwarded to the governors for final approval.

And, while teams all began the shortened season with a 24-game schedule, positive COVID tests in the BC, Central and US divisions have forced some teams to play fewer games than the rest of the league.

In the BC Division, the Rockets, who missed 17 days, will only play 16 games while the other four will play 22.

That means the order of the draft will be determined by winning percentage, and not total points.

A decision on a format for the import draft is expected to be released soon.

The import draft, which takes place in the summer, involves all three major junior league.

However, all three have had vastly different schedules. The QMJHL has been playing for several months and expect to complete a playoff schedule, while the OHL has not played at all.



Minten's four assists pace first-place Blazers in 5-2 win over Victoria

Blazers roll 5-2 over Victoria

Rookie Fraser Minten had four assists Monday as the Kamloops Blazers extended their B.C. Division bubble lead with a 5-2 win over the Victoria Royals inside an empty Sandman Centre.

Matthew Seminoff scored twice, with Connor Levis, Tye Spencer and Dylan Kuefler picking up the other Kamloops goals.

Brandon Cutler and Tarun Fizer scored for Victoria.

Kamloops goalie Dylan Garand stopped 24 of 26 Victoria shots in the win, while Royals netminder Adam Evanoff made 28 saves on 33 Kamloops shots.

Victoria scored once on five power plays, while the Blazers converted twice on four opportunities.

The Blazers are now 14-4 on the pandemic-shortened bubble season, good for top spot in the WHL’s B.C. Division, four wins ahead of the Vancouver Giants.

Kamloops is also tops in the division in win percentage at .778, half a per cent better than the Kelowna Rockets, who sit at .773 with an 8-2 record after having missed two weeks due to COVID-19 infections.

The Blazers and the Royals will hit the ice for a rematch on Thursday at Prospera Place in Kelowna, Victoria’s bubble home.



Bankier's hat trick leads Blazers to 4-3 overtime win over Kelowna

Blazers blast Rockets in OT

Caedan Bankier scored three times, including the overtime winner, in a 4-3 Kamloops Blazers win over the visiting Kelowna Rockets on Saturday inside an empty Sandman Centre.

The win improves the Blazers record to 13-4 — tops in the WHL’s B.C. Division bubble — while the Rockets now sit at 8-2-1-0.

Following a scoreless opening frame, Bankier opened the scoring at 3:45 of the second period, beating Kelowna goalie Roman Basran to put the Blazers up 1-0.

Josh Pillar’s ninth of the year, a shorthanded goal unassisted midway through the second, increased the Blazers lead to 2-0, but Kelowna goals from David Kope and Alex Swetlikoff evened things up 2-2 heading into the third.

Bankier’s second of the game, on the power play from Inaki Bargano and Connor Levis, put the Blazers up early in the third, but Kope’s second of the game had the score tied 3-3 after 60 minutes.

Montana Onyebuchi set up Bankier for his third of the night in overtime, ending the extra time 13 seconds early.

Dylan Garand made 35 saves on 38 Kelowna shots in the win. Basran stopped 30 of 34 Kamloops shots on goal in the loss.

The Blazers are back in action on Monday, taking on the Victoria Royals at 7 p.m. at Sandman Centre. The Rockets play next on Tuesday, when the Prince George Cougars will pay a visit to Prospera Place.



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