Just when it appeared the Kelowna Rockets were getting their act together, along comes a comedy of errors.
Logan Nelson sparked a third-period rally for Victoria, as the Royals scored three unanswered goals in a span of five minutes to overcome a 1-0 deficit and defeat the Rockets 3-1 at Prospera Place on Friday night.
While losing by two goals may not seem bad, the end result was misleading — the Rockets were flat, while the Royals were the constant aggressors and could have won by more had it not been for a solid, but losing result, by Adam Brown.
“(Victoria) came to play. I don’t think we did. It wasn’t a good effort,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska, whose young defence committed a litany of turnovers. “I thought (Victoria) played hard. They competed and they found a way to get their goals when they needed them. We just didn’t have any push-back of our own tonight. It’s a little disappointing after the last three games we had.”
Myles Bell, with his 14th goal of the season, scored for Kelowna (29-30-3-6), which had a modest three-game winning streak come to a close. Those three wins were against Kamloops and Spokane, two teams which have locked down playoff spots. Friday’s result was against a team that’s in a three-way fight for the final two Western Conference playoff berths.
Jamie Crooks, with his team-leading 35th goal of the season, and Brett Cote, with his first WHL goal, also scored for Victoria (22-40-2-4), which trailed 1-0 after 40 minutes. Nelson levelled the score at 1:42 of the third, and his goal was followed by Crooks at 6:22, then Cote at 6:57.
Adam Brown made 34 stops for the Rockets, who host the Prince George Cougars (21-44-0-2) on Saturday.
“We talk about our goaltending all the time,” said Huska, “and they’re consistently the guys that are always there for us. It’s tough when you see some nights like this, when the guys in front of him let him down. You don’t like to see that, but there’s been a few too many occasions where that’s happened.”
Keith Hamilton made 26 saves for the Royals, who are 1-1 on a four-game road trip that continues Saturday in Everett, then ends Sunday in Vancouver. On Wednesday, Victoria lost 3-2 in Everett.
“I liked our push, right from the beginning,” said Royals GM/head coach Marc Habscheid. “Right from the beginning, it was good, especially in the offensive zone. We pushed the pace and that’s what we wanted to do. As the game went on, I thought we got better. But we also got a bit frustrated; we couldn’t score. We weren’t as good on our finish and we could have been a little better that way, been a little hungrier for those loose pucks. In the third, we were, and that goal by Nelson helped us, because we broke that goose egg, got little belief and we were able to ramp it up even more from there.”
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna’s scratches were D Mitchell Chapman (upper-body injury), C Colton Sissons (concussion), C Spencer Main (concussion) and RW Austin Ferguson. Victoria’s scratches were D Zach Habscheid (lower-body injury), D Kade Pilton, RW Lukas Kralik and LW Taylor Crunk.
Royals 3 at Rockets 1
KELOWNA — WHL on Friday night:
Penalties — Carroll Vic, Heffley Kel (fighting) 12:36, Bench minor Kel (too many men, penalty served by Baillie) 16:16, Rintoul Vic (checking from behind) 19:38.
1. Kelowna, Bell 14 (Johnston) 9:51
Penalties — Zgraggen Vic (fighting), Astles Kel (charging, fighting, extra penalty served by Moar) 6:27, Bulmer Kel (boarding, unsportsmanlike conduct) 16:25, Soudek Vic (boarding) 17:55, McColgan Kel (holding) 18:48.
1. Victoria, Nelson 22 (Carroll) 1:42
2. Victoria, Crooks 35 6:22
3. Victoria, Cote 1 6:37
Penalties — Carroll Vic (holding) 4:07, McColgan Kel (checking from behind) 7:24, Soudek Vic (slashing) 7:45, Soudek Vic, Rigby Kel (fighting)
Shots on goal by
Victoria 7 17 13 — 37
Kelowna 11 7 9 — 27
Goal — Victoria: Hamilton (W, 18-30-1-4); Kelowna: Brown (21-23-1-3).
Referees — Steve Papp, Derek Zalaski. Linesmen — Ron Dietterle, Tim Digby.
Power plays (goals-chances) — Victoria: 0-6; Kelowna: 0-3.
Attendance — 6,037.