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The Kelowna Rockets scored two unanswered goals in the third to beat the Vancouver giants 4-3 Thursday

Rockets run win streak to 4

Turner McMillen is going to be fun to watch in a Kelowna Rockets uniform for the next several seasons.

The forward, playing his 17-year-old season, is cut from the same cloth as former Rockets Ryan Cuthbert and Mitch Callahan, feisty, honest, no-nonsense players who battle for every inch of ice at both ends of the rink.

McMillen, whose father Dave was a captain of the Rockets when they were based in Tacoma, put his skills on display Thursday during a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants.

McMillen scored a highlight reel shorthanded goal to briefly tie the game 2-2 early in the second period.

He used his speed to outrace a Vancouver player for a loose puck in the neutral zone, shielded himself from a backcheck, broke in all alone and beat Trent Miner high to the blocker side as he moved through the slot.

"I was texting with his mom this morning just to see how things were going and I said don't worry, your son is going to score," recalled head coach Kris Mallette after the game.

"She said I hope so because his dad wasn't much of a scorer when he played for us, he did a lot of his talking with his fists. But, I said I would be more concerned if Turner wasn't getting any chances, but every game, that line of Flamond, Cousins and McMillen are getting three of four quality chances a game."

In the third period, he dropped the gloves with Bryce Bader, who has about four inches and 40 pounds on the diminutive McMillen.

Thursday's win, their fourth in a row and sixth in seven games since returning from a 17-day COVID-imposed quarantine, was eerily similar to their win over the same Giants Saturday.

They gave up the opening goal in both, trailed 3-2 after two periods in both, and scored two unanswered goals in the third in both to pull out a win.

Mallette described both wins as resilient - neither was pretty.

"Typically, our starts have been the key to some of our success, and I think at the start of the game and the start of the second period, we were defending, we were on our heals," said Mallette.

"We found a way to win, and it was great. It wasn't pretty, that's for sure."

Zach Ostapchuk helped the Giants build a 2-0 lead with goals 37 seconds apart midway through the opening period.

Dillon Hamaliuk got one of those back on a Kelowna power play, beating Miner five-hole from the right faceoff dot.

McMillen tied it four minutes into the second with his first career WHL goal.

"I saw the puck go toward the red line and I was in a foot race against one of their guys. I beat him to the puck, saw the blocker was open, so I put it up top," he said of his tying goal.

The Giants restored the one-goal lead moments after the power play ended, setting the scene for another third period Kelowna comeback.

As he did Saturday, defenceman Jake Lee tied it. On another Kelowna power play, Lee skated into the Vancouver end, made a toe drag past a defenceman, and beat Miner again blocker side.

Alex Swetlikoff got credit for the game winner with less than two minutes left in regulation time.

However, it appeared as if his shot from the slot hit a Vancouver stick, bounced off Mark Liwiski's skate and in.

Ironically, it was Liwiski who scored the game winner in Saturday's win.

Despite playing just nine games, the Rockets find themselves in a third place tie with Prince George, just four points in back of the Giants.

The Rockets continue a busy weekend with back-to-back games with the BC Division leading Kamloops Blazers.

The two teams play Friday at Prospera Place before a return engagement Saturday in Kamloops.



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