Rockets survive wild west shootout, take 3-0 lead
By Jason Peters
The Prince George Citizen
With their captain and best player watching from the seats, the Prince George Cougars had no trouble scoring enough goals to win. The problem is, they didn’t. Now, they are facing playoff elimination at the hands of the Kelowna Rockets.
On Tuesday night, in front of 2,475 fans at the CN Centre, the Rockets scored a trio of third-period goals and beat the Cougars 7-6. With the win, the Rockets took a 3-0 lead in the WHL Western Conference quarter-final series, and they can wrap up the first-round, best-of-seven series with a victory in Game 4 tonight. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Cougars played without 46-goal-man Brett Connolly, who has a separated right shoulder and is all but certain to miss tonight’s game as well.
In the pivotal third period, the Rockets erased a 5-4 Cougars lead on goals by Prince George product Brett Bulmer, Shane McColgan and Cody Chikie. Martin Marincin got one back for the Cougars while they had goaltender Ty Rimmer pulled for the extra attacker, but, despite a couple of chances in the last five seconds, they got no closer.
Through the first three games of the series, the Rockets have outscored the Cougars 10-1 in third periods. The Rockets led 3-2 after the first and the Cats were up by that 5-4 count after the second.
The Cougars scored three consecutive goals in the middle frame — two of them on power plays — before the Rockets answered back to pull themselves into a one-goal deficit heading to the third period.
Taylor Stefishen got the Cats into a 3-3 tie when — on a 5-on-3 power play — he picked up the puck at the left side of the Kelowna net and went high on goaltender Adam Brown. Stefishen was the beneficiary of a point shot by Sena Acolatse, a shot on which Acolatse didn’t get full wood.
Later, moments after Rimmer had robbed Andreas Stene and Tyson Barrie on point-blank chances, Acolatse gave the Cats their first lead of the night when his centering feed went in off Kelowna blue-liner Zak Stebner.
The Cougars moved into a 5-3 advantage when Taylor Stefishen fought his way to the rebound of a power-play blast by Acolatse and chipped the puck home from in close.
Before the middle period was done, Barrie found Mitchell Callahan with a beautiful stretch pass and Callahan scored when he cut to his left and Rimmer fell trying to move across with him.
In the first frame, the two teams combined for five goals. Colton Heffley made it 1-0 for Kelowna at 2:16, with Spencer Asuchak replying for P.G. at 8:27, then Zach Franko for the Rockets at 10:46. Charles Inglis levelled the score at 2-2 at 13:58, with Spencer Main giving the Rockets a 3-2 lead at 17:45.
The Cougars outshot the Rockets 41-29.