By Larry Fisher
The Okanagan Saturday
Ryan Huska liked his team’s effort in Portland. The results, not so much.
Portland defenceman Joe Morrow scored a third-period power-play goal on Friday night as the host Winterhawks edged the visiting Rockets 2-1 in WHL action at the Rose Bowl before 8,778 fans.
It was the second straight defeat for Kelowna in Portland, coming on the heels of Wednesday’s 4-2 loss at Memorial Coliseum in front of a smaller crowd of 2,101.
“I thought we played very hard and easily could have come away with four points,” said Huska, Kelowna’s head coach, whose squad outshot Portland in both contests, 38-37 on Friday and 35-29 on Wednesday. “That’s the unfortunate thing, is I thought our guys competed for two games. We have to push to score goals, but a lot of the things we did on the ice we played the right way and we’re going to win some games by playing that way.”
Kelowna’s six-game road trip, which started on a promising note with a two-game sweep in Victoria last weekend, continues tonight in Vancouver before wrapping up on Sunday in Everett. The Rockets return to Prospera Place on Wednesday, hosting the Everett Silvertips.
At Portland, the Rockets were hard-luck losers on Friday as Winterhawks goaltender Mac Carruth turned in a terrific 37-save, first-star performance.
“We had our opportunities,” Huska said, “some good chances to score, and a couple unfortunate bounces. Their goaltender was good, but at the same time we have to be more determined to score goals. You’re not going to win
a lot of games when you get (almost) 40 shots and only one goal.”
The teams combined for 75 shots but only three goals, as the goaltenders staged a duel, with Kelowna’s Jordon Cooke making 35 saves as third star, behind Morrow for the game-winner.
“It’s funny. In some buildings, they inflate shot clocks and I think they had a few extra shots than what they did have, but when Jordon got his shots he made some great saves for us,” Huska said.
Zach Franko, with his seventh goal of the season, to pull Kelowna even just 34 seconds into the third period, scored for the sixth-place Rockets (17-21-2-3), who had a three-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday.
That 4-2 loss was also the result of special teams, with Portland scoring two power-play goals and two more shorthanded.
Brad Ross, with his 29th goal, to open Friday’s scoring midway through the first period, also lit the lamp for the third-place Winterhawks (28-12-2-1), who would host Kelowna if the playoffs started today.
The win also gave Portland a season sweep of its four meetings with Kelowna. The Winterhawks also beat the Rockets 6-5 (shootout) on Nov. 4 and 3-1 on Nov. 5 in Kelowna. Overall, Portland outscored Kelowna 12-9.