|Rourke Chartier of the Kelowna Rockets looks for a rebound in front of Swift Current Broncos' netminder, Eetu Laurikainen. Broncos' players Richard Nedomlel, left, and Graham Black look on during WHL first period action at Prospera Place Wednesday evening.|
Prior to that final 20 minutes, though, the first 40 minutes were terribly flat. As in Saskatchewan flat. How bad was it? Consider this: The combined shot total after two periods was 23, 12 for Swift Current and 11 for Kelowna.
Yet, at game's end, the Rockets walked away the winners, forging back from period deficits of 1-0 and 3-2 for a wild 6-5 victory.
"Winning ugly, I guess," said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska, who received a somewhat complete effort, with six players scoring. "We didn't have a lot of jump tonight. We were flat. But I think a lot had to do with Swift Current playing a very good road game. They were missing some bodies, so they tried to force us to play through them.
"They have a bigger group, and I think they did a good job of that. Once things started to open up in the third period, I thought we got a little bit better at that time."
"We knew their game plan, which was to work hard," added Kelowna defenceman Madison Bowey, who gave the Rockets their first lead of the night, 4-3, at 9:44 of the third. "The coaches prepared us to make sure we knew how they were going to play, but we got off to a slow start. We weren't focused, and it really showed with the 11 shots (after two
"But we found a way to win and we'll take it."
Asked if the second intermission was a salty one inside the Rockets' locker-room, Bowey said it was, instead, quiet.
"Not many words were said," said Bowey. "We were getting ourselves focused for the third period because we knew we needed a big one, and we got one. It was an ugly one, but we'll take it. We just can't have that kind of start this Saturday (against Prince George). We need a big start and be ready to play."
Zach Franko, Ryan Olsen, J.T. Barnett, Dylen McKinlay and Cody Fowlie, with what turned out to be the game winner at 15:23 of the third period, also scored for Kelowna (18-9-1-1). The two teams combined for six goals in the final frame.
Adam Lowry, with a hat trick and an assist, plus Zac Mackay and Coda Gordon, with a goal in the last minute, replied for Swift Current (12-15-3-2). Lowry's three-goal night included a successful penalty shot early in the second period that made it 2-0. The 6-foot-5 forward, who opened the scoring just 32 seconds into the game, completed his hat trick on the power play late in the second.
Eetu Laurikainen stopped 17 shots for the Broncos, who lost 2-1 in Kamloops on Tuesday night, while Jordon Cooke made 14 saves for the Rockets.
In opening up the third period, Huska said part of Kelowna's success came from Swift Current "getting worn down a little. They had a long night in Kamloops and they lost a few guys to injuries, so they had a short bench (Tuesday). Finding a way to score opportune goals was a big thing for us."
Huska added that he didn't have to say much during the second intermission.
"We challenged them to be better," he said. "We challenged their character a little bit, and I think some guys responded much better in the third period."
While Kelowna's locker-room was a mix of relief and joy, it was understandably quiet around Swift Current's room after squandering a strong start.
"We got off to the start we wanted," said Lowry, Swift Current's captain and the game's first star. "We scored in the first shift and it gave us some momentum. We limited their chances in the first, and going into the second, we got a shorthanded marker and felt good about ourselves. We were happy about the way we were playing and then they responded.
"Injuries are excuses. I know we were missing some guys and we had some fatigue from a tough game in Kamloops, but it's the same story again. We were up 1-0 in Kamloops, and in the final two minutes they score two goals, 30 seconds apart. For our team to take the next step, we have to close out these games, close out the one-goal games where you're a little bit tired, a little bit fatigued."
Lowry added that he'd give up "all four points for two points for the team. Our team has been on the wrong side of a lot of one-goal games. It's frustrating, but I think it shows our team can compete."
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna's scratches were D Mitchell Chapman (ankle), D MacKenzie Johnston (knee) C Colton Sissons (undisclosed upper-body injury), RW Austin Glover and C Cole Linaker. Swift Current's scratches were G Landon Bow, LW Shea Howorko, C Brent Benson, LW Chance Lund, LW Josh Derko and RW Levi Bews.