Rockets beat Wenatchee 3-1 to take 3-1 lead in series

Rockets hold on for 3-1 win

Jari Kykkanen very well may have stolen game four of the best-of-seven first round playoff series for the Kelowna Rockets.

Kykkanen, who has played all but one of the last 23 games including all four in the post season, was spectacular again Wednesday in preserving a 3-1 victory over the Wenatchee Wild and a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

What looked like it may be a relatively quiet night after one period turned into anything but as the Wild dominated the final 40 minutes but managed just one goal on the veteran netminder.

"We had a great first period...a bit of a lull but we didn't give up much. The second and third was a completely different story," said head coach Kris Mallette.

"Real lopsided, the ice was tilted and Jari was dialed. Traffic, rebound control, whatever it was he fought and gave us a chance and was a big reason for that W tonight."

Kykkanen made some spectacular stops, especially in the third when the Wild were pressing for the equalizer.

He somehow got the nob of his stick on a backdoor one-timer off the stick of Briley Wood who already has give goals in the series including a similar goal Tuesday. Kykkanen then managed to slide to his left to thwart Evan Friesen from the side of the net.

The Rockets jumped all over the Wild in the first period and were eventually rewarded with as strange a goal as we've seen all season. A goal more suited for a circus shot in the Happy Gilmore movie than in a playoff game.

With the Rockets on the power play Max Graham slid the puck across the crease for Luke Schelter.

A Wild defender intercepted the pass in the crease and tried to backhand it out of trouble. Instead, the puck hit a nearby teammate's leg, caromed straight back into the original player's leg and into the net.

Graham got credit for his second of the season.

Tij Iginla doubled the lead with a more conventional tally, shaking off a defender inside the Wenatchee blue line and beating Daniel Hauser to the glove side.

With the Wild pressing early in the second, Kenta Isogai finally broke through, beating Kykkanen on a clean breakaway 3:29 in. Pressure as they may, that was all they could get past the Rockets netminder.

As they did in game three Tuesday, the Rockets got in front of as many shots as they could to help out Kykkanen.

"They had to block shots because they were giving pucks up at times too," said Mallette.

"As that game wore on we made it more difficult on ourselves. The simplicity of our game, the strength of our game is just play north hockey and we were bringing pucks back, we were turning pucks over. So yea, you make a mistake you'd better buck up and pay for it."

After all, as captain Gabriel Szturc reminds us, it's playoff time.

"It's playoffs, we have to sacrifice. Everyone wants to sacrifice...we want to do it for our goalie who has been unbelievable this series," said Szturc.

With the Wild continuing to press in the third it was Szturc who, against the run of play, notched the insurance market, burying a wrist shot from the slot off a feed from Andrew Cristall.

"This season I have had the puck in that spot many times so I kind of knew where to shoot.

"He (Cristall) put it there, I already knew where to shoot and it went in. I'm happy we got that two goal lead."

Szturc had several other chances from that same spot but was unable to convert.

The penalty kill, which gave up a bundle in the series opener was perfect Wednesday, shutting down the Wild on their three power plays including one with less than four minutes left.

The Rockets now head back to Wenatchee with a chance to close out the series Friday night.

If the Wild are able to extend the series, game six would be back at Prospera Place Sunday afternoon at 2.

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