By Daily Courier Staff
Alberta wasn’t the winter getaway the Kelowna Rockets were hoping for.
With Sunday’s narrow 2-1 defeat at Calgary against the host Hitmen, the Rockets ended their four-game road trip through Wild Rose Country with only one win.
After starting out on a high note, upsetting the Eastern Conference-leading Oil Kings 6-4 in Edmonton on Wednesday, Kelowna dropped three straight decisions, though it earned three total points thanks to Saturday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
There were no points to be had on Friday in Lethbridge, where the Rockets fell 6-2, or in Calgary to close out the trip with Kelowna trying to avenge a 7-1 home-ice loss against the Hitmen on Feb. 17.
Not that points are of the utmost importance to Kelowna in its current predicament. The Rockets (26-29-3-6) have settled into sixth place in the Western Conference standings with eight games remaining in their regular season, including five at home.
Kelowna trails the fifth-place Spokane Chiefs by 10 points, while leading the seventh-place Victoria Royals by 15 points. Kelowna’s ranking isn’t likely to change, with a looming first-round playoff matchup against the third seed, either the Portland Winterhawks or Tri-City Americans.
So the next few weeks essentially represent tune-up time for the Rockets, who have a home-and-home set against the B.C. Division-leading Kamloops Blazers this weekend, in Kamloops on Friday and back in Kelowna at Prospera Place on Saturday.
At Calgary, Hitmen forward Victor Rask scored the game-winning goal at 8:48 of the third period as the hosts held off the Rockets in the dying minutes.
Kelowna’s leading scorer Shane McColgan hit the post on a shorthanded breakaway with less than two minutes left, and Kelowna’s power play misfired to end the contest. Brett Bulmer, with his 29th of the season and fifth on this trip, scored Kelowna’s lone goal. He finished February with nine goals and 12 points in 11 games, including four multi-goal efforts.
Jimmy Bubnick, with his 29th, also replied for the Hitmen (37-23-2-1), who bounced back from a 4-1 loss at home to the Oil Kings on Friday, then rested on Saturday.
Calgary netminder Brandon Glover made 26 saves to record his 18th win of the season, while Kelowna’s Jordon Cooke stopped 30 of 32 shots in a losing cause.