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Andrew Cristall scored three times leading the Rockets past Vancouver 4-1

Cristall's trick lifts Rockets

Friday night at Prospera Place had the feel of a playoff game.

And why not. The Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants came in separated by just four points in the Western Conference.

The bad blood between the two teams was evident throughout the game as liberties were taken, scores settled and names taken for future battles.

When the dust finally settled the Kelowna Rockets skated away with a 4-1 victory to climb to within two of the sixth place Giants.

"It's a team we've had some battles with throughout the year. We haven't seen them often but we're going to become real accustomed with them," said head coach Kris Mallette.

"I liked the push, I liked the animosity. It had as good feel to it and our guys were feeding off it."

The Rockets spotted the Giants a 1-0 lead during a sleepy, lacklustre opening period. The only goal of the period glanced off the skate of Connor Levis.

Samuel Honzak was denied by Jari Kykkanen on a breakaway but stuck with the rebound and threw the puck toward Levis at the front of the net. Officials took a look at the play to ensure Levis had not kicked the puck into the net.

The goal stood.

The Giants barely had a sniff the rest of the way.

The Rockets put this one away with a dominating second period in which they scored four times while holding the Giants without a shot the entire period.

Andrew Cristall netted a natural hat trick to give the Rockets a 3-1 lead before Luke Schelter closed out the scoring with a low wrister as the trailer on a three-on-two break.

For Cristall, goals 32, 33 and 34 accounted for his third career WHL hat trick and the first natural hat trick in memory.

His first two came with the Rockets enjoying a man advantage. He drove down Main Street on the first before making a pretty deke to the backhand.

The second was a low shot from the left circle that went post and in. The third, another wrist shot somehow squeezed through Brett Milwald in the Vancouver net.

It was a night when the power play was clicking and Cristall, who many times looks pass first, looked to shoot whenever the found his stick.

"I definitely wanted to come to the game and shoot a lot of pucks," said Cristall.

"Maybe the defences are thinking I'm going to pass so the shot is sometimes there and I thought I would take it."

The game degenerated into a series of scuffles and fights over the final minutes as the teams combined for 92 penalties in the third period including six misconducts as the officials tried to keep a lid on things.

The Rockets have now won four of five meetings between the two team with number six seven days from now at the Langley Events Centre.

Kelowna is two back of Vancouver and just seven behind both Victoria and Wenatchee with 11 games left to go.

The Rockets get back at it Saturday night when the Western Conference-leading Prince George Cougars come to town.



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