Rockets resume winning ways

Tensions rose between two division rivals Saturday night at Prospera Place.

The Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants met for the second game of their home-and-home series in what proved to be a heated contest.

Led by Myles Bell’s three-point effort, the Rockets defeated the Giants 4-2 in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,172 fans.

“I thought it was a good night for us,” Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said of the team’s third game in as many nights. “Sometimes you worry about that with the energy level and travel, but I thought our guys played really hard tonight in a physical, gritty style hockey game.”

The Rockets left Vancouver on Friday night with a bitter taste in their mouth after the Giants put an end to Kelowna’s 16-game winning streak.

Kelowna (33-4-0-2) came out guns blazing for Saturday’s rematch, peppering Giants goaltender Payton Lee with 36 shots on net, while Rockets netminder Jordon Cooke faced 22 at the other end.

Bell, a New Jersey Devils prospect, scored two goals and registered an assist in the win.

Around the mid-mark of the first period, Tyrell Goulbourne fed Bell a cross-ice pass before Bell undressed Giants defenceman Brett Kulak and scored on the backhand.

The power forward went on to net his team-leading 23rd goal of the season later in the game.

“Since our Eastern trip, he’s been starting to score fairly regularly for us,” Huska said of Bell. “And we need that from him. I think he’s got that excitement back in his game and that’s why we’re seeing him step up.”

Despite having the top penalty kill in the league, both of Vancouver’s goals were scored on the power play. Cain Franson and Alec Baer found the back of the net for the Giants (20-15-5-2).

“The second goal was a lapse in our coverage entering our own zone,” Huska said. “We made a poor decision and we let a guy go to the net. It happens sometimes.”

Carter Rigby and Justin Kirkland also scored for Kelowna, while defenceman Jesse Lees tallied two assists. Rigby deflected a point shot by Lees to give him six goals in his past seven games, and Kirkland just snuck one past Lee to light the lamp for the second straight night.

In the feisty affair, Goulbourne flexed his physical presence against Giants forward Tim Traber.

Goulbourne and Traber dropped the mitts as the whistle sounded at the end of the first frame, exchanging several blows. The two went on to finish what they started later in the second, with Goulbourne emerging on the winning end.

Kelowna, which scored two straight wins over defending WHL champion Portland earlier this week, was most recently ranked as the top team in the nation, according to the CHL’s weekly Top 10 rankings.

The Rockets are back in action Wednesday in Edmonton as they kick off a four-game road trip against the Oil Kings (26-12-0-1).

Published by Tieja MacLaughlin

Tieja MacLaughlin is the Founder & CEO of TIEJA Inc. Founded in 2017, TIEJA Inc. is a digital content and public relations agency that empowers brands, executives and individuals to proactively manage their online reputation.

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