In a game of what ifs, the Kelowna Rockets were left wondering what happened?
Tyler Maxwell sparked a five-goal barrage for Edmonton, scoring back-to-back markers in the second period, and the Oil Kings dumped the Kelowna Rockets 6-3 in WHL action on Wednesday night. Yet, for 20 minutes, and Kelowna sporting a 2-0 lead, the Rockets were playing inspired hockey despite icing a shortened roster.
Then came the game’s turning point in the second — a disallowed Kelowna goal that spun momentum from the Rockets towards Edmonton.
The call was correct, as the puck didn’t cross the goal-line before Edmonton’s net was dislodged. Sure enough, the Oil Kings collected themselves, and, five minutes later, Maxwell scored his second of the night. By period’s end, it was 5-2 Edmonton, and the writing was on the wall for Kelowna.
That goal, though, had it counted, would have given Kelowna a 3-1 lead, and who knows what would have happened. Mind you, the Oil Kings punished the Rockets on the power play, scoring four times on five chances, so maybe that non-goal would have meant little even if it had counted.
“The unfortunate thing is we gave them needless power plays,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “They have the second best power play in the league and I don’t think our penalty killing, as you can tell, was any good tonight. I don’t think we had enough care or want in tonight’s game from the bulk of our guys.”
Asked if he was pleased with his team’s effort, considering their roster woes, Huska said one word: “No.”
Michael St. Croix, with his team-leading 37th goal of the season, Rhett Rachinski, Keegan Lowe, with his third goal of the season, and Henrik Samuelsson also scored for Edmonton (38-13-3-4), which trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes, but led 5-2 after 40. Maxwell’s markers were his 33rd and 34th of the season.
“Sometimes you get bounces and we were fortunate (to not be behind 3-1),” said Maxwell. “It was the right call, but the way we responded . . . we got that first one and then we piled it on. That stretch of goals was important for us.”
Zach Franko, with three goals, replied for Kelowna (24-26-3-5), which played its second game in as many nights with a shortened roster. In a 4-3 shootout road loss to Seattle on Tuesday night, the Rockets were without seven regulars. Against the Oil Kings, they were missing six regulars, including captain Colton Sissons, who suffered a concussion in Saturday’s 3-2 home-ice loss to the Kamloops Blazers.
Laurent Brossoit made 25 saves for the Oil Kings, who are 2-1-1-0 on a five-game B.C. Division road trip that ends Friday night in Vancouver.
Adam Brown started for Kelowna, but was pulled after Edmonton’s fifth goal. He finished with 20 saves, while back-up Jordon Cooke stopped 18 of 19 shots in relief. The Rockets were 2-for-6 with the extra man.
Franko had a good outing with two power-play goals and a penalty shot, but it was all for naught.
“We took a couple of penalties early in the second and that killed us,” said Franko. “We couldn’t bounce back, but we should have. We’ve gotten into a little adversity and we didn’t kick back. A good team needs to push back. They pushed back and we didn’t. By the time we did show some push back, it was too late.”
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna’s scratches (6) were D Mitchell Chapman (upper-body injury), RW Filip Vasko (lower-body injury), RW Colton Sissons (concussion), C Spencer Main (concussion), LW Brett Lyon (suspension) and LW Jessey Astles (upper-body injury). Edmonton (5): C Cole Benson, C Travis Ewanyk (upper-body injury), D Ryan Dech (lower-body injury), D Mason Geertsen and LW Tristan Sieben.