KELOWNA — Irony broadsided the Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday night.
In a game overflowing with mistakes and penalties and the Kamloops Blazers holding a late lead, the Rockets were handed a golden opportunity to level the score with a power play. Instead, and what’s been a season-long trend, the Rockets squandered the extra-man advantage and Kamloops hung on for a 5-4 victory at Prospera Place.
For that, the Blazers can thank goaltender Jeff Bosch, who made several big saves down the stretch. He didn’t, however, have to make any saves over the final two minutes — this despite Kelowna being on the power play and the Rockets pulling their goalie for a six-on-four attack.
“I thought the score was flattering to us, to be honest,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “For two periods, I don’t think we had any sort of effort. They won all the little battles for pucks and we never came out with anything. You’re not going to win much when you’re going to play that way.”
(Photo: Geordie Wudrick of the Kelowna Rockets, middle, and Austin Madaisky of the Kamloops Blazers collide during WHL action at Prospera Place in Kelowna, B.C., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. The Blazers defeated the Rockets 5-4 on the strength of three goals in the second period. At top is Rockets defenceman Kevin Smith.)
Dalibor Bortnak and Bernhard Keil, with goals in the first period, plus Brendan Ranford, Austin Madaisky and Bronson Maschmeyer, with markers in the middle frame, scored for Kamloops (4-4-0-1). No less than 13 Blazers reached the scoresheet, though not one had more than one point.
Spencer Main, Brett Bulmer, Brendon Wall and Zach Franko replied for Kelowna (2-5-0-0), which had a modest two-game winning streak come to an end. The Rockets trailed 5-2 after two periods, but scored twice in the final frame, though their comeback fell short because of Bosch.
Bosch, however, wasn’t Kamloops’ starter; Jon Groenheyde was, though he lasted just one period, making four saves on six shots. Bosch made 25 saves in relief. It was the same story for Kelowna, with starter Jordon Cooke getting pulled midway through the second after Madaisky made it 4-2. Cooke made 18 saves on 22 shots, while Adam Brown was 11-for-12 in relief.
In the game, the Rockets struck three times on the power play. In its last man advantage, though, Kelowna failed to register a shot, a result more like the Rockets’ terrible 8.1 power-play percentage heading into Wednesday’s contest.
“Like I said, the score was a little flattering,” said Huska. “Even when we did get those couple of goals . . . we were a little better in the third, which is something and it was better than the first two periods, but it’s disappointing.”
Said Bosch: “Our defence really beared down, especially in the last two minutes. They sacrificed themselves for the team, and that’s what we need, efforts like that in the third period.”
(Photo: Colton Jobke of the Kelowna Rockets, top left, and Brendan Ranford of the Kamloops Blazers chuck the knuckles during WHL action at Prospera Place in Kelowna, B.C., on October 13, 2010. Meanwhile, Brett Bulmer of the Rockets (19) and Linden Saip of the Blazers wrestle while being watched by linesmen Kris Hartley and Kevin Bennett. The action began when Jobke laid out Dalibor Bortnak of the Blazers with an illegal hit near Kelowna's blue-line in the second period. Jobke was handed an elbowing major, two minutes for roughing and a game misconduct while Ranford was handed two minutes for roughing and two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. Bulmer and Saip weren't penalized.)
One of Bosch’s big saves came off Shane McColgan during a five-on-three Rockets power play midway through the third. With the puck lying off to Bosch’s right, McColgan streaked in to knock it home, only to have the Blazer netminder dive across his crease and keep the score 5-3. The near-miss came with two seconds left in the five-on-three advantage.
Just under two minutes later, Franko scored on the remaining power play. The goal, a tipped shot, came with three seconds left in the man advantage. Had McColgan’s shot gone in, the Blazers would have been on their heels. Instead, they survived and wound up riding that momentum boost despite Franko’s goal.
“I hit the post first, then it came out and hit his blocker. No excuses; I gotta put that in the net,” McColgan said of the miss. “That’s a turning point in the game.”
Said Bosch: “The puck kinda bounced around in front of the net and I saw it go loose, then I saw (McColgan) skating in. It was all desperation from there and I dove across and got as much of my body in front of the puck as I possibly could.”
As for replacing Groenheyde after 20 minutes, Bosch said “I was a little surprised because I thought Jon was playing pretty well. But I’m ready to go on the bench whenever the coach gives me the call. They gave me a little bit of warning before the end of the (first) period, so I was ready to go in the second.”
Blazers head coach Guy Charron, whose team was outshot 14-9 over the final period, was surprised his team didn’t face any rubber over the game’s final two minutes. His game-turning moment, however, came after the first period, with his Blazers tied 2-2 despite outshooting the Rockets 16-6.
“When you outshoot a team 16-6 and they have a power play and the score is tied, it’s pretty tough to take,” said Charron. “So you make a change and hopefully it’ll motivate your team. Or at least, hopefully, your next (goalie) can give you a couple of saves, which I think he did early on in the second period.
“That’s what we needed and that’s how we built our momentum and took a 5-2 lead. But this team, since the beginning of the season, we’ve had problems in the third period, and that’s, to me, the thing that we have to address. Even with a 5-2 lead, our team should have the ability to minimize or not allow a team to come back with two goals, even though they were on the power play.
“They outworked us maybe, and, to me, that’s the only concern. But Bosch’s big saves on the five-on-three and the penalty killing we did at the end, sometimes it’s not easy, as long you get the two points at the end of the night.”
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna’s scratches were D Tyson Barrie (hamstring), D Antoine Corbin, RW Jason Siebert and C Gal Koren. Kamloops’ scratches were D Josh Caron, D Brady Gaudet, RW Chase Souto and RW Jordan Depape.