The Kelowna Rockets beat the Kamloops Blazers in dramatic fashion on Saturday night.
A shootout goal from Justin Kirkland was the deciding factor in the second game of a home-and-home series between these B.C. Division rivals, with Kelowna winning both contests 3-2.
The Rockets (19-3-0-2) faced a couple of tough tests this weekend against the Blazers (6-18-2-2), who are dead last in the Western Conference.
“They played very well both nights that we faced them,” Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said of the Blazers, who have lost all four meetings with Kelowna to date. “We got the four points this weekend, but we were rewarded when maybe we shouldn’t have been.
“They competed and won a lot of puck battles,” Huska continued. “They were the hungrier team tonight.”
Despite being outshot by the Blazers in all three frames and in extra time, Jackson Whistle earned his fifth win of the season for the Rockets.
Opposing netminder Taran Kozun picked up his 12th loss.
“I don’t know if maybe we were coming out thinking it wasn’t going to be as tough because they’re in last place,” Whistle said. “But you cant think about that, we have to be ready to go no matter what team it is.”
Carter Rigby netted the Rockets’ first goal, before Tyson Ness tied the game in the second period for the Blazers. Ness scored his 20th of the season on a rush up the left side before unleashing a shot that stunned Whistle on the glove side.
Ryan Olsen restored Kelowna’s lead in the third, before Kamloops captain Matt Needham scored a power-play marker to force the game into extra time.
Myles Bell and Damon Severson missed in the shootout for the Rockets, as did all three Blazers shooters.
Kelowna has won 12 of its last 13, and has been ranked as the third-best team in Canada in the CHL Top 10 rankings for two straight weeks. The Blazers’ last win was Nov. 5.
The Rockets are back in action Tuesday, hosting the Vancouver Giants in another 7 p.m. puck-drop at Prospera Place.
“I think they’re going to come out hard and so are we,” Whistle said. “They’re one of our biggest rivals. We haven’t played them yet this year, so I think it’s going to be a good game.”
ICE CHIPS: Severson’s assist on Olsen’s goal was his milestone 100th career assist. . . . After Tuesday’s tilt with Vancouver, Kelowna hosts the Western Conference-leading Everett Silvertips (20-4-4-0) next Friday and the Kootenay Ice (15-12-2-0) next Saturday to conclude this homestand.