It wasn't a masterpiece, but the Kelowna Rockets are proving to be artists when it comes to winning.
Myles Bell scored twice for Kelowna, with both goals coming in the first period, as the Rockets beat the Everett Silvertips 5-1 in a game that was entertaining but also flat and hard-hitting. The win was Kelowna's third in a row and 14th in their past 16. The Rockets also improved their home record to 15-2 after winning their 14th consecutive game at Prospera Place.
"I thought it was a good game, I thought it was a physical game," said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska, whose team got a boost with captain Colton Sissons returning after missing 10 games with a suspected concussion. "It was probably one of the more physical games we've seen in here from both sides. We were engaged, and I thought we played well."
Yes, the Rockets did indeed play well, and were full value for the two points in what was their last game of 2012. Their first game of 2013 will be Wednesday night at home to Victoria.
Everett put in a gritty effort, but, in playing its third game in three nights, the Silvertips ran out of gas as the game wore on. Still, the Rockets can't be faulted for finishing on an exposed opponent. And Sunday night's finishing touch came midway through the second period, with Dylen McKinlay scoring a shorthanded goal to make it 3-1.
"Three games in three nights . . . when something goes against you in one of those situations, sometimes it's hard to generate momentum again," said Huska. "But I thought we stuck with it after that goal, too. I thought we stayed physical and we found a way to stay out of the penalty box, and that was important for us."
Also important was the return of Sissons, who reached the scoresheet, roofing a shot six minutes into the third period, to close out the scoring.
"His first game back, we were careful with his minutes on the ice, but I thought he handled himself very well," said Huska. "He showed no ill signs of any old injury; I thought he played very hard, and I thought our team responded very well having him in the lineup."
In judging his return, Sissons said "it felt good (to be back). I felt a little rusty in the first period, but I felt great by the third, like I hadn't missed a beat."
Sissons added that the team "has had a strong outing (8-2) since I've been gone. I hope we keep it going at home and go for 15 on Wednesday. Fourteen in a row (at home), it's the longest streak I've ever been a part of in my career. It's pretty awesome to see."
Cole Linaker, with his first goal of the season, at 2:25 of the third to make it 4-1, also scored for Kelowna (26-10-1-1). Kohl Bauml, with his 12th of the season to make it 2-1 late in the first, replied for Everett (15-23-0-2), which was outshot 33-19.
Daniel Cotton made 28 saves for the Silvertips, while Jordon Cooke, also returning from injury (ankle), turned aside 18 shots for the Rockets.
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna D Mitchell Wheaton was hurt twice on Sunday; early in the first period, then late in the third with a possible arm/shoulder injury after absorbing a hit along Kelowna's end boards. . . . Huska said Wheaton will likely be day-to-day, and that he'll be fine.