Kelowna wins 6th straight game; takes over B.C. lead
Special to The Okanagan Sunday
It may have been a day later and a different game with much different implications, but the result was the same for Kelowna, as the Rockets came away with a huge 7-3 win over the Vancouver Giants on Saturday night.
This one meant a lot more than the previous evening’s victory over Prince George in a lot of ways, not the least of which is the fact that Kelowna vaulted over the Giants into first place in B.C. Division standings.
“I really liked our game,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska, “We hadn’t seen them in a long time, but I thought our second period was really good, and I’d like us to play that way all the time. We always found a way to come back, which was nice.”
Photo: Mitchell Callahan of the Kelowna Rockets, middle, races for the puck between a pair of Vancouver Giants in Andrej Stastny, left, and David Musil, right, during WHL action at Prospera Place in Kelowna, B.C., on Saturday, Jan. 29. The Rockets won 7-3. Also pictured are Zach Franko, right, and Kevin Smith of the Rockets, plus, far left, Michael Burns of the Giants.
Two quick goals within the space of under two minutes in the second period set the pace for Kelowna, which has now won six games in a row and squared its season series against Vancouver at 2-2 with four games played.
Geordie Wudrick — who scored once in Friday’s 7-3 rout of the Prince George Cougars — paved the way against Vancouver with a hat trick and an assist. Both teams opened up with tight checking, neither willing to give up a mistake that might have cost a scoring chance.
Kelowna, however, got the lift they needed from Brett Bulmer, who also had an assist, and Wudrick, with his first of the night — goals that were scored 112 seconds apart in the middle stanza to get them ahead 2-0.
Photo: Mitchell Callahan of the Kelowna Rockets, middle, looks down while about to tip a shot in front of Vancouver Giants goaltender Mark Segal. Callahan registered a goal and assist.
Bulmer got his 18th of the season as he undressed Giants defenceman David Musil, and, breaking in alone, shelved an unstoppable backhand shot over Giants goalie Mark Segal.
Despite that opening, the Giants, as they’ve shown all season, refused to back down and they made it 2-1 at 17:14 of the period, with Brendan Rowinski getting his first of two on the night.
If the first two frames were more defensive, the third was the opposite, with seven goals in total and keeping the official scorekeepers busy.
The Rockets came out on the winning end of that 20-minute gunfight, though, as first Mitchell Callahan, on a 5-on-3 power play, then Zach Franko tallied for Kelowna.
Rowinksi added his second, and Greg Lamoureux also scored for the Giants, but with the score 5-3, Wudrick sealed the deal for Kelowna with his 28th and 29th goals of the season coming late in the frame.
The significance of Saturday’s win was not lost on Wudrick.
“It’s so huge for us, especially down the stretch and going into the playoffs,” Wudrick said. “To be able to move into first place and to try to get some separation . . . we’ve got a couple of games in hand, and that was absolutely big-time for us.”
Adam Brown played a solid game in net for the Rockets, turning aside 24 shots and making several key late saves to preserve the win.
Kelowna was 1-for-5 on the power play, while the Giants went 0-for-2 with the advantage.
The Rockets, who have won their last six games, are 29-20-0-0 and have two games in hand on the Giants (26-20-1-4). Prince George, which lost 4-2 to Everett on Saturday, remains in third place, seven points behind Kelowna.
Kelowna will now have a chance to put some space between its provincial rivals. Two games into a seven-game stretch against B.C. Division opponents, they will next take on the Chillwack Bruins this coming Wednesday at Prospera Place. Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m.