231876
231312
WHL  

Fragile Rockets unable to protect lead, drop 9th straight

Rockets let one slip away

Fragile and frustrated.

Those words perfectly describe the psyche of the Kelowna Rockets as they look for answers as to how to snap a losing streak that has reached nine games.

Before a raucous crowd of more than 5,000 at Prospera Place the Rockets let a 4-1 lead melt away into a 5-4 defeat at the hands of the league-leading Prince George Cougars.

The frustration was etched on the faces of head coach Kris Mallette and captain Gabriel Szturc during their respective post-game media availabilities.

"Just searching for answers and it's right there," said Mallette.

"We talk about being a team but unfortunately the mistakes that we are making isn't a team. Guys potentially cheating a zone or not taking a hit to make a play, that's not a team that's an individual that's on their own page.

"We had that game pretty much sewn up. They scored late (second period) and obviously rode that momentum as the game wore on. I'm very disappointed."

Szturc and Tij Iginla both scored twice with Szturc's opener 36 seconds into the contest a gorgeous play where he came out of the corner, fought through two checks and fired a shot from the bottom of the right circle past Joshua Ravensbergen.

It kickstarted probably the Rockets best period of the season as they dominated the Cougars but were unable to build on the lead.

After the Cougars tied it with a shorthanded goal when the entire Kelowna power play curled off to the bench instead of tracking the puck in the Rockets end, Kelowna erupted for three straight.

Iginla with his 16th and 17th and Szturc with his second of the night grew the lead to 4-1 before the Cougars chipped away.

"We were dominating the first two periods and were ready to finally break this losing streak but unfortunately it's the same over and over again," said Szturc.

"We can build some leads the last few games, we can build two goal leads but the other team is always coming back. It's a very frustrating loss.

"We have to go back to practice like we did this week, work hard and we'll break this streak next game. It's not OK."

The Cougars comeback started in the final minute of the second when Koehn Ziemmer tapped home his first of two with 48.3 seconds left in the period.

PG pressed the Rockets much of the third and eventually climbed within one when Zach Funk beat Jake Pilon from the bumper on a Cougars power play.

Terik Parascak tied it four minutes later when he found a loose puck in front of the net after Pilon was unable to find the rebound.

Ziemmer on another power play with under four minutes to go proved to be the game winner. Pilon again made the initial stop but the puck squeezed behind him where Ziemmer was in the right place to tap it home.

Mallette game credit to the Cougars who came into the game as the number 2 ranked team in the country but added the mentality of his team right now is they are playing not to lose instead of playing to win.

"We're not playing safe, we've just got to make simple plays, play with grit and compete. I thought we did it in the first but as the game wore on, as you said, it dissipated," said Mallette.

"We're working hard, I know what we're capable of it's just a matter of executing.

"They talk a lot and the say the right things," added Mallette who said it's now up to the leadership group to show.

"They're some of the culprit that are making the mistakes where if we want to lead by example we've got to make sure we are doing the same things."

Saturday's loss equalled the longest losing streak in club history. The 2006-2007 team also lost nine in a row from Jan. 19 to Feb 2, 2007.

The 1999-2000 team went 12 games without a win, including 11 losses and a tie.

The Rockets were again without leading scorer Andrew Cristall who remain day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Kelowna look to get back in the win column for the first time when they host the Lethbridge Hurricanes Tuesday night.



More WHL articles