It wasn't pretty - not even close, but the Kelowna Rockets will put this one behind them and prepare for the post season.
The Rockets built up a 4-0 lead then held on to edge the visiting Vancouver Giants 5-4 in the regular season finale for both teams Saturday at Prospera Place.
The game resembled a pre season game more so that game 68 of the regular season as both teams went through the motions for the better part of the game with nothing but stats and pride to play for.
Andrew Cristall added to his season point total with a career-tying five assists giving him 100 helpers for his career. His 55 assists tie him with teammate Gabriel Szturc for ninth most in a season while his 95 points tied Kole Lind and Tyson Baillie for ninth on the all-time list.
"The point totals were good from some of our players but I didn't think the execution was there," said head coach Kris Mallette.
"Was it a bit of an easy game, yea! But, that's to be expected because nobody really wants to push a little too hard and jeopardize their health."
Szturc scored twice and added a helper while Max Graham with a highlight reel shorthanded effort, Carson Golder and Turner McMillen added singles.
Szturc opened the scoring with a one-timer from the slot after Ty Hurley did a lot of work along the board and behind the net to get him the puck.
Golder off a rebound on a Kelowna power play early in the second made it 2-0 before Cristall and Graham hooked up for the goal of the night.
The Rocket forwards created a two-on-one at the Vancouver blueline.
Cristall beat a defender to the inside with a toe drag then send a pass to Graham who was already at the goal line.
Graham, while behind the line stretch the puck to the edge of the crease and slid it into the empty side.
AC ?? Grammer ?? ?#NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/78RCGWLj8N— Kelowna Rockets (@Kelowna_Rockets) March 26, 2023
Szturc later in the period with his second of the night upped the lead to 4-0.
But, the Giants got one back on a knuckle ball from the blue line in the final minute then pulled to within one with goals 26 seconds apart midway through the third.
A McMillen power play marker restored the two goals lead before Skyler Roberts in the final minute again cut the lead to one setting stage for a frantic finish.
Forward Dylan Wightman blocked a shot one the leg in the dying moment and struggled to get the the bench. He remained on the bench and appeared to be fine walking back to the dressing room.
Despite the win, Mallette was concerned about some of the habits exhibited during part of the game.
"Last night and tonight, the decisions that we make, and the ones tonight didn't really come back to bite us until the third period, but if we are trying to do that throughout the game against Seattle in playoffs then we're going to be setting ourselves up for a really tough go.
"We're going to have to make sure we are smarter with it.
"Glad we're out of it now and we have a week to prepare."
The Rockets will face the Western Conference champion Thunderbirds in the opening round of the playoffs.
The series opens in Seattle Friday and Saturday before returning to Prospera Place for games three and four Tuesday April 4 and Wednesday April 5.