Leif Mattson scored twice, including the overtime winner, as the Kelowna Rockets prevailed 3-2 over the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash., on Friday night.
Mattson buried a rebound of Kyle Topping’s shot just 20 seconds into the 3-on-3 tiebreaker to get the victory after Kelowna had given up the tying goal with just 10.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
Mattson’s goals were his 10th and 11th of the season, with Nolan Foote assisting on his first tally that tied the game 1-1 in the second period. That was Foote’s 100th point of his WHL career after celebrating his 18th birthday on Thursday.
Kyle Crosbie, with his fourth of the season, had the other goal for the Rockets (12-15-1-0), who return to host the Saskatoon Blades tonight in the fifth annual Teddy Bear Toss game, 7:05 p.m. at Prospera Place.
Friday marked Adam Foote’s 14th game as Kelowna’s head coach (8-5-1-0), matching Jason Smith’s total (4-10-0-0). The Rockets made that change on Oct. 23.
James Porter backstopped the win over Tri-City with 26 saves.
Kyle Olson, with his fifth to open the scoring in the first period, and Krystof Hrabik, with his eighth to force overtime, provided the offence for the Americans (14-9-1-0), who got 23 stops from Beck Warm in a losing effort.
Kelowna’s penalty-killing was a big factor in Friday’s victory, surviving all six short-handed situations including a five-minute major assessed to Ted Brennan.
The power plays were lopsided — 6-1 in Tri-City’s favour — but the Rockets put forth a quality road performance to get back in the win column after dropping 2-1 decisions to a pair of division leaders in the Everett Silvertips and Vancouver Giants.
Porter came up a big save with 16.1 seconds left in the third period, but the Americans won the ensuing faceoff and Hrabik, a 19-year-old rookie import from the Czech Republic, netted the late equalizer.
Looking ahead to tonight’s game against Saskatoon, Rockets winger Michael Farren was excited to face his former team, having been acquired from the Blades for a third-round bantam draft pick on Oct. 11. Farren has only managed one assist through 14 games with Kelowna, but would love to break out on Teddy Bear Toss night.
“I’m pretty excited to play against the old team and see a few of my friends. I really want to get the win against them and rub it in,” said Farren. “It’s going to be a fun game because of Teddy Bear Toss, it’s always fun seeing all the bears thrown on the ice. The one thing we need to do is keep the energy going after that opening goal.”
Off the ice on Friday, the Rockets’ brass made another move in trading 19-year-old forward Jack Cowell to the Kootenay Ice in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft.
“Our team is in a situation where we’re working toward the Memorial Cup, and we’re aiming to acquire as many assets as possible,” said Kelowna general manager Bruce Hamilton.
Cowell, a 6-foot-2, 189-pound forward from Winnipeg — where the Ice are rumoured to be relocating to next season — was listed by the Rockets as a training-camp invite in 2016.
In 26 games this season with the Rockets, Cowell contributed five points (two goals, three assists) and 26 penalty minutes.