J.T. Barnett couldn't wait to get back into the lineup.
The veteran forward made up for lost time by scoring twice in the first period to pace the Kelowna Rockets to a 5-1 victory over the visiting Regina Pats on Friday night in WHL action at Prospera Place.
Barnett, who hurt his knee on the first shift of Kelowna's season opener on Sept. 21 in Kamloops and had been sidelined since, returned with a bang. The over-age winger was opportunistic in the opening frame, one-timing a back-door feed from Rockets leading scorer Myles Bell to open the scoring at 6:56, then cleaning up a rebound of Rourke Chartier's wraparound attempt at 17:55 for a 3-0 Kelowna lead through 20 minutes.
"Right place, right time. Those plays that both the guys made were just unbelievable," said a complimentary Barnett after earning first-star honours. "That's where I kind of call my office. . . . That's where I score all my goals - two or three feet from the net. I stay around the paint and I get a good amount of chances right there."
Barnett made good on his opportunities, helping the Rockets (13-8-1-1) stretch their home-winning streak to seven games, with an 8-2 overall record at Prospera Place this season. Colten Martin, also with his first goal of the season, Ryan Olsen, with his 12th, and Madison Bowey, with his fourth, rounded out the scoring for Kelowna, which outshot Regina 34-16 in the one-sided contest. Jordon Cooke earned the win in goal, making 15 stops, including a key second-period save to deny Morgan Klimchuk's rebound effort and preserve Kelowna's 3-1 advantage.
"The start was the difference for us," said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska, who underscored Barnett's impact. "He scored two big goals early on for us, and I thought he worked very hard tonight."
Lane Scheidl, with his team-leading 16th goal, replied for the Pats (11-13-1-2), who had recorded points in seven of their previous eight games, including four straight on this B.C. Division road trip. That stretch was highlighted by Wednesday's 2-1 overtime win against the league-leading Kamloops Blazers despite also being outshot, 41-13.
Matt Hewitt made 29 saves in a losing cause against Kelowna.
The Rockets continue their busy three-game weekend tonight, entertaining the Saskatoon Blades (11-11-0-1), who rallied to top the Blazers 3-2 on Friday night. There were about 1,500 tickets remaining for that 7 p.m. puck-drop at Prospera Place.