By Larry Fisher
The Okanagan Sunday
Brett Bulmer seemed to have the game on his stick all night. In the end, it was teammate Damon Severson holding that distinction.
Severson scored the shootout winner, after also scoring in regulation, to send the Kelowna Rockets to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Red Deer Rebels at Prospera Place. Bulmer accounted for Kelowna’s other two goals and had several chances for the hat trick, not to mention hitting the post on his shootout attempt, as the Rockets snapped a six-game losing skid prior to leaving on a four-game Alberta road trip next week.
“We did work a lot harder tonight, that wasn’t in question at all,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska, whose club rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit on the heels of a 7-1 blowout loss to the Calgary Hitmen on Friday night.
“(Saturday) we had some good chances, but their goaltender played very well and made some good saves. It was much better than the previous two games, for sure. We were able to keep pucks in the offensive zone and wear them down a little bit, and that’s why we were able to get ourselves back in the game.”
Kelowna also halted a five-game home losing streak, saving face in front of 6,079 fans after Friday’s drubbing and Wednesday’s 6-3 doubling at the hands of the Eastern Conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings.
In both those contests, Kelowna (25-27-3-5) was dominated in the second, outscored by a combined 9-0. Against Red Deer (26-26-1-5), the middle frame was won by Kelowna as the momentum shifted with Bulmer finding that extra gear that few WHL players can match.
Bulmer scored the only goal of the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1, but he easily could have had a natural hat trick, firing wide on a penalty shot in the early stages and pinging the crossbar in the final minute when aiming for the same spot as his goal over the left shoulder of Rebels goaltender Deven Dubyk.
The Rockets were snakebitten through 40 minutes with Shane McColgan, Kelowna’s leading scorer, and Zach Franko, who’s had the hot hand of late, both fanning on quality scoring chances.
But the bounces changed for the better in the third, with Severson’s point shot redirecting off the post, off Dubyk and in to even the score before Bulmer buried the go-ahead goal off a Myles Bell rebound for his second of the night.
“I was struggling early and I was getting really frustrated,” said Bulmer, “but all my guys picked me up and said ‘stay with it, you’re going to get a couple here,’ and I did. So it was nice to see a couple go in for me.”
To which Huska said, “Brett has the ability to be like that every night. That’s where we want to see his game, and it shouldn’t be every four or five games; it should be every night. That’s the consistent side we’d like to see, and that’s what we need to see from him down the stretch.”
Red Deer’s Mathew Dumba forced overtime with a hard one-timer with 32 seconds left in regulation.
In the shootout, which went seven rounds, McColgan scored for Kelowna on a botched deke-turned-highlight-reel goal and Charles Inglis countered for Red Deer on a quick shot just inside the post. After Bulmer was denied by the bar, Severson deked to the forehand and lifted the puck over a fallen Dubyk, then Brown turned aside Turner Elson’s deke attempt to seal the victory.