Despite the best efforts of Dillon Dube — and James Porter, for that matter — the Kelowna Rockets were swept from the WHL playoffs on Thursday night.
Avoiding a suspension for his second ejection of the first-round series, Dube scored twice in the elimination game, while rookie goaltender Porter stopped 36 shots, but it wasn’t enough as the wild-card Tri-City Americans ousted the B.C. Division’s top seed in four straight games with a second consecutive 5-3 win in Kennewick, Wash.
“We battled hard,” Dube told Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald, having likely played his final WHL game — expected to turn pro in the Calgary Flames’ organization next season. “When you are in your last life in the series, you battle hard. We went out on a good note. They were a good hockey team. They caught us off-guard at home and we were chasing the 8-ball at the end.”
Indeed, and it didn’t help that Dube was tossed from Games 1 and 3 for charging and kneeing majors, respectively. He had been held without a point through three games, including a wild 9-7 defeat at Prospera Place in Game 2 this past Saturday.
Dube broke out in Game 4, with his goals tying the contest at 1-1 and 3-3, while Kyle Topping scored his second of the series on a third-period power play to make it 2-2.
However, Morgan Geekie proved to be the difference yet again, scoring twice in the final minute of regulation to complete his hat-trick with his playoff-leading seventh, eighth and ninth goals.
Nolan Yaremko, with his fourth (after scoring a hat-trick in Game 2), and Jordan Topping, with his first, to open the scoring in Game 4 with the lone goal of the first period, also tallied for Tri-City, which got 25 saves from over-age netminder Patrick Dea.
“We competed, came back from being behind, but we didn’t quite finish it off,” Rockets coach Jason Smith told Fowler. “Credit to them (Tri-City), they finished it off.”
In addition to Dube, Kelowna’s three over-age players in Carsen Twarynski, James Hilsendager and Gordie Ballhorn ended their junior careers on Thursday, while captain Cal Foote and leading scorer Kole Lind are also projected to turn pro for next season.