The Kelowna Rockets have played with swagger all season at home - though it was personified in Saturday evening's record-setting performance.
Carter Rigby produced an electrifying hat trick, including the game-winning goal, as the Rockets defeated the visiting Vancouver Giants 5-3 in WHL action at Prospera Place last night.
The final buzzer produced a standing ovation from the 5,675 fans who watched the Rockets earn a Kelowna-best 19th straight home win and improve to 20-2 this season at Prospera Place.
"It's just an unbelievable feeling right now, to be a part of this record," said Rockets goaltender Jordon Cooke, who made 19 saves for his 18th straight win overall. "I'm just excited about the team record and getting that 19th win for our fans."
Technically, the Rockets are still five home wins shy of their franchise record of 24, established while based in Tacoma, Wash., during the 1992-93 season.
But achieving this Kelowna mark after tying the 18-game winning streak set by the 2002-03 club that featured Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Josh Gorges, meant a lot to this year's players and coaches.
"It is exciting and I'm proud of what the guys have accomplished here," said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. "It's obviously a big accomplishment, but now we have to build on this and keep moving forward, and try to keep our success going."
Further reason for celebration came courtesy the out-of-town scoreboard, which saw the Victoria Royals score a 5-4 road victory over the Kamloops Blazers. That result gave Kelowna (34-10-2-1) a six-point lead over Kamloops (30-14-2-3) atop the B.C. Division standings, while Vancouver (12-35-0-0) remains a distant last place.
Despite that disparity and the fact that Kelowna is ranked fourth among all CHL teams, the Giants made the Rockets sweat for two points on Saturday. Kelowna led 3-1 and 4-2 at the period breaks, but Vancouver cut the deficit to one on both occasions as Cain Franson's second power-play goal of the contest closed the gap to 3-2 just three minutes into the final frame.
Jesse Lees restored Kelowna's two-goal cushion with a point shot through a Rigby screen at 10:10, and the Rockets played conservatively down the stretch to keep their winning streak intact -Â and Cooke's too.
With Cooke back between the pipes on consecutive nights and starting his third game in four days, the Rockets gave him the necessary offensive support in the opening 20 minutes.
Rigby was a dominant force right from the puck drop, scoring two similar goals before the game was 10 minutes old, by breaking in off the left wing and firing high shots past Giants goaltender Jared Rathjen.
Vancouver's Brendan Rouse scored between Rigby's tallies, but stay-at-home defenceman MacKenzie Johnston made it 3-1 for Kelowna on a fluky goal as his point shot went wide but rebounded off the end boards, off Rathjen's skate and into the net.
Rigby completed his hat trick midway through the second period, with another blocker-side shot through a screen, and had several other chances, including a partial breakaway, in by far his best game of the season.
Rigby's third of the night -Â and eighth of the season - came after Franson had brought Vancouver back within a goal by redirecting a power-play point shot.
"I just prepared like any other game, but I knew getting that 19th win was big and I wanted to have a hand in that," said Rigby, who scored 21 goals as a rookie last season. "Usually I've been bringing a physical presence, but tonight I chipped in offensively, so hopefully I can start doing that more often."