Adam Brown took one for the team on Saturday night, a slapshot to the head. That save, stinging as it was, helped turn a lost cause for Kelowna into a winning one.
Shane McColgan had a three-point night for Kelowna, all of them assists, as the Rockets roared back from a two-goal deficit with five unanswered markers to post a 7-4 victory over the Prince George Cougars in WHL playoff action on Saturday night. Yet, it could have easily been Prince George winning had Sena Acolatse's point-blank slapshot not hit Brown.
The Cougars were up 4-3 early in the third period, Kelowna had just begun pressing its attack and the game entered a pivotal point. Had Acolatse scored, the Rockets’ comeback would have likely never happened. But Brown used his noggin, the Rockets rallied, and now they lead the best-of-seven series 2-0. The first round series resumes Tuesday and Wednesday in Prince George with Games 3 and 4.
“I got my bell rung a little bit,” said Brown, who finished with 26 saves, including a highlight-reel deflection with his goalstick shortly after stopping Acolatse. “But it’s something you have to battle through.”
“Even if (Acolatse) did score, we were going to battle back like it was a 0-0 game,” said McColgan. “But luckily he didn’t score and we did battle back and we got a big win tonight.”
“I think I hit him square in the forehead,” said Acolatse, who owns a fearsome shot. “It was a good save by him. I put everything into it.”
“It hits him in the head and it doesn’t go our way. We had some good pressure in the third period,” said Cougars head coach Dean Clark, whose team was without its top forward, Brett Connolly, who is out with a suspected shoulder injury. The Cougars wouldn’t say what kept Connolly out of their lineup, but he wore his arm in a sling on Saturday.
Colton Sissons, Zak Stebner, Tyson Barrie, Cody Chikie, Jessey Astles, Kevin Smith and Geordie Wudrick scored for Kelowna, which trailed 1-0 and 4-3 at the period breaks. Of their five unanswered goals, four were in the final period. The first-round series resumes in Prince George with Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Acolatse, James Dobrowolski, Wilson Dumais and Jaroslav Vlach replied for Prince George, which held a 4-2 lead late in the second period. Acolatse also recorded two assists. Ty Rimmer made 25 saves for the Cougars.
Asked about Connolly, Clark said “he’s day to day. Obviously, we have a couple of days before the next game, so we’ll see if he’s ready or not for the next game.”
Even with Connolly in the lineup, the Cougars still likely wouldn’t have stopped Kelowna’s third-period comeback, a frame which saw the home team score four times. Asked what coach Ryan Huska said to his troops during the second intermission, McColgan said not much.
“Coach came in and he said ‘Do I have to say anything?’ And we said ‘no, we know what to do.’ So we knew what we needed to do; we just weren’t executing” said McColgan. “Then we started executing and we got a big win.”
Huska said he said “not much, to be honest with you. We asked them not to be so perimeter, staying to the outside in the offensive zone. Other than that, I thought it was our leaders in the dressing room who did a good job of making sure we were ready to go.”
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna’s scratches were D Mitchell Chapman, LW Evan Bloodoff (2nd game of 4-game suspension), RW Jason Siebert (wrist), C Max Adolph (head) and D Madison Bowey. Prince George’s scratches were RW Brett Connolly (undisclosed injury), RW Caleb Belter, D Shane Pilling and C Tayler Thompson.