Kelowna wins 5th straight; host Giants tonight
Special to The Okanagan Saturday
The scoring chances came early and often for the Kelowna Rockets on Friday night.
And, before a sold-out crowd of 6,088 fans at Prospera Place, the Rockets made good on them, riding three-goal first period en route a 7-3 win over the Prince George Cougars in WHL action. First star Cody Chikie had a goal and three assists to help the Rockets to their fifth win in a row, plus their sixth over their northern Cariboo opponents this season.
“I’m loving our line right now,” Chikie said afterwards. “Spencer Main and Andreas Stene, we’re playing very well together. We’ve got a lot of chemistry going, and we’re just going to get better every day from now on."
Kelowna came out flying and scored on two out of its first three shots. First, Colton Sissons, then Shane McColgan beat Cougars starting goaltender James Priestner to make it 2-0 before two minutes had elapsed after the opening faceoff.
With many of the fans still finding their seats, Sissons, untouched by Prince George’s defence, and benefitting from the corner work of linemate Evan Bloodoff, slotted a quick shot under Priestner from the left faceoff circle to open the scoring just 23 seconds in.
McColgan followed that up 92 seconds later, and Geordie Wudrick made it 3-0 with a team-best 26th goal of the season before the Cougars’ Martin Maricin, with a power-play shot from the point, beat Adam Brown in Kelowna’s net to make it 3-1 at the break.
Prince George could get no closer than that, though, and the Rockets survived a rough second period in which the two teams traded plenty of extracurricular roughness, with a combined total of more than 50 minutes of infractions.
Kelowna came out ahead where it mattered, however, as Chikie added a helper on Kevin Smith’s fourth goal of the season and later on Evan Bloodoff’s 12th to keep the home team’s momentum going.
The Cougars struck again when Troy Bourke solved Brown at 11:31 to give them faint hope. But, Bloodoff, with perhaps the highlight of the night, outraced Shane Pilling of the Cougars to a loose puck, then neatly slid it under Priestner’s replacement, Ty Rimmer, making it 5-2 and all but ensuring victory.
In the third, Zach Franko added yet another tally, and, after helping his team all night, Chikie added his 10th of the season to earn first-star honours.
The Cougars, who had two chances disallowed in the earlier going, got a late short-handed goal from Brock Hirsche, but that was it for Prince George (24-22-2-1).
The Rockets (28-20-0-0) went 0-for-10 on the power play, while Brown turned aside 25 shots. The Cougars were 1-for-8 with advantage and saw 26 Rockets shots.
Prince George is now five points behind the Rockets in B.C. Division standings.
The Rockets won’t be able to talk much about Friday’s victory, as, tonight, they play host to the Vancouver Giants (26-19-1-4). Game time is 7 p.m.
In B.C. Division standings, the Giants have 57 points, while Kelowna is two points back, but has two games in hand. Prince George is third with 51.
“Every point is important, and when you’re playing teams in your division, those are four-point nights,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “We want to make sure we have good efforts against them, and that’s the way it’s going to be for the remainder of the season. Everybody needs points.”