By Larry Fisher
The Okanagan Saturday
Austin Ferguson can tell this hockey story however he sees fit.
Telling the truth might be his best bet, though, even if the 16-year-old’s future kids or grandchildren refuse to believe the strange, but quite true story on how he scored his first goal in the Western Hockey League.
The circumstances were rather unbelievable as Ferguson finished an odd sequence of events by potting a loose puck past Vancouver Giants goaltender Adam Morrison to give Kelowna a 3-0 lead midway through the first period on Thursday night at Prospera Place.
The Rockets (4-5-1-0) went on to win 6-3, with Ferguson adding an assist in helping snap a six-game losing skid. Kelowna plays host to the Victoria Royals (6-6-0-0) tonight at 7 p.m., before visiting Vancouver (5-6-0-1) on Sunday evening. Victoria was in Vancouver for a late start on Friday night, where the Giants were hoping to halt their own three-game losing streak. The G-Men did exactly that, pasting the Royals 8-1, thanks to a six-goal first period.
Victoria hadn’t played since sweeping the Rockets in a two-game home set last weekend, winning 7-5 and 4-3 in overtime.
Against Vancouver, Ferguson’s goal was greasy in nature, and nothing that legends are made of.
“I’ll just tell them (grandchildren) I scored and won’t tell them how,” said Ferguson, an Abbotsford product and 10th-round bantam draft pick (199th overall) in 2010. “Just go to the net hard and good things will happen.”
Indeed, but what made this play more special was the behind-the-scenes action that captivated much of the audience.
Seconds earlier, at the other end of the rink, Giants sniper Brendan Gallagher bowled over Rockets goalie Adam Brown as he cut hard to the front of the net from the corner. A nearby referee signalled a delayed penalty — for goalie interference — while Kelowna players Mitchell Chapman and Cody Chikie came to the rescue in an attempt to pry Gallagher off a fallen Brown, only to have another Vancouver player take exception to their treatment of the Giants’ leading goal-getter.
A four-man scrum — or five, if counting Brown — ensued, with gloves eventually coming off but no real punches exchanged.
Most fans were watching that unfold as the Rockets rushed the puck up ice, resulting in Ferguson’s goal before the Giants gained possession to stop play.
“I just went to the net and the puck . . . ” Ferguson started before being interrupted by a shaving-cream pie to the face from assistant captain and leading scorer Shane McColgan, who assisted on the unforgettable goal. “The puck was just lying there, so I tapped it in. I didn’t really know what was going on behind me . . . but I’ll remember it.”
Rockets defenceman Damon Severson also had a memorable night, tying a team record with five assists, including the other helper on Ferguson’s goal. Former captain Colin Long, a forward, was the last Kelowna player to record five assists, accomplishing the feat against Portland on Jan. 23, 2008.
Severson had to think back to second-year bantam, playing house league for his hometown Melville, Sask., Millionaires, for his last five-point performance.
“It was the league final against Foam Lake, we won 7-6 in overtime and I had five goals and two assists,” recalled Severson, adding his side rallied from a 5-2 deficit. “That was probably the highlight of my life, and tonight was just another milestone.”
Thursday’s outburst came in front of a strong contingent of NHL scouts, who packed the press box prior to puck drop. As a draft-eligible defender, the 17-year-old Severson certainly left a positive impression. He also shot up the stats sheet, tying McColgan for the team lead at 12 points, both with two goals and 10 assists.
“I just tried to make quick plays out there tonight,” Severson said. “I tried to put the puck in other guys’ hands and they put it in the net. I didn’t score the goals, they did, I just gave them the puck.”
Afterwards, Rockets coach Ryan Huska was asked whether his team had finally turned the corner on its losing streak with Thursday’s victory.
“It’s one of many (corners),” Huska said. “I think we’ve got a ways to go.”
Despite doubling Vancouver, Kelowna again failed to put forth a complete effort. After building a 3-0 lead through 10 minutes, the Rockets coasted briefly, allowing the Giants to score twice before the end of the first period. Kelowna regained the momentum with three unanswered goals, two in the first three minutes of the second period and another just 26 seconds into the final frame.
“We kind of let off the gas in the last 10 minutes of that first period,” Severson said. “We’ve gotta play a full 60 minutes and that’s the main thing. As long as we play a full 60 minutes, we should come out on top.”
ICE CHIPS: Rockets forward Carter Rigby of Penticton was injured on an open-ice collision late in the second period with Giants defenceman Blake Orban, who was assessed an interference major and game misconduct. Rigby laid face down on the ice for a few minutes before being helped to the dressing room. He did not return. . . . Rockets defenceman Madison Bowey made his season debut after sitting out the first nine games with a knee injury. The highly regarded 16-year-old was hurt in a pre-season game against Kamloops on Sept. 9. . . . Kelowna’s scratches were LW Brett Bulmer (Minnesota Wild), RW Jessey Astles (head), D Kevin Smith (shoulder) and C Tyrell Goulbourne (leg). Vancouver’s scratches were D Neil Manning, LW Connor Redmond and RW Levi Bews.