Midway through the Kelowna Rockets’ contest against the division rival Victoria Royals, it became apparent that one of the teams was probably going to have to win ugly.
For the Rockets, now 14-15-2 on the season, winning ugly on Friday night sure beat the alternative.
“It was one of those games, I thought the first 10 minutes it didn’t seem like we had our legs,” said Rockets head coach Adam Foote. “We weren’t forechecking or backchecking, but once we figured it out in the second period, I thought we had a lot of good opportunities.
“I thought their goalie played outstanding.”
Indeed, goaltending was the key. The teams had combined for 27 goals in their first four meetings this season, an average of almost seven per game. But, on this night, the 4,822 in attendance at Prospera Place were treated to a puck-stopping clinic.
Roman Basran continued his solid play of late, turning aside all 16 shots he faced. While the skaters continue to try and find ways to score goals, the 17-year-old Basran has done everything in his power to give the Rockets a chance to win each time out.
Griffen Outhouse, an overager at 20, was steady throughout for Victoria (13-12), blocking 31 shots, controlling rebounds and generally frustrating the Rockets’ shooters.
The teams skated through an uneventful first frame, although the puck did sneak behind Basran shortly after the midway point. With the puck atop the net, Kaid Oliver swiped it off Basran’s back and into the goal. Because Oliver’s stick was above the crossbar, officials ruled it was knocked in by a high stick.
Later in the opening period, Basran robbed Dante Hannoun from in close — snaring the one-timer to keep the affair scoreless.
Basran continued to stand tall during the second stanza, stoning Oliver on a shorthanded breakaway.
Meanwhile, the Rockets peppered Outhouse with 24 shots through 40 minutes. The veteran netminder was able to shut the door until the 8:31 mark of the third period.
On a Rockets power play, Lane Zablocki gained the Royals’ blue line, drew both defenders and slid the puck across to Kyle Topping, whose shot went wide. Zablocki recovered the puck and shoved it toward the crease from behind the Royals’ net where defenceman Mitchell Prowse inadvertently knocked it behind Outhouse.
Zablocki, who was credited with his third of the campaign, was excited to score against his former team.
“It was kind of a lucky goal,” he said. “But every time you play against a former team, it’s fun. It gets your blood pumping a little bit.”
Nolan Foote added an empty-netter with 59 seconds to play, his 18th of the season. Two seasons ago as a 16-year-old, Foote scored 19 times — his career high to date.
For Basran, he earned his second career shutout. The other came last season in his first career start, a 38-save, 4-0 blanking of the Medicine Hat Tigers at Prospera Place.
Kelowna is now 2-2 in games they enter the final period tied. However, the Rockets continue to be good frontrunners. When leading after 40 minutes, Kelowna is 11-0 on the season, and also 7-0-1 when leading after the first period.
ICE CHIPS: Three stars were Basran, Outhouse and Zablocki, who was acquired by Kelowna on Sept. 28, with Victoria getting two bantam draft picks in return. . . . The Rockets were 1-for-3 on the power play. The Royals were 0-for-3. . . . For the second straight game, Kelowna scratched RW Michael Farren and D Cayde Augustine. . . . Through 15 home dates so far, average attendance is 4,570 per game. . . . Kelowna outshot Victoria, 32-16. The Rockets are 7-5 when outshooting opponents. . . . The Prince George Cougars dropped a 5-2 decision to the Winterhawks in Portland, while the Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Blazers were idle on Friday. . . . The Rockets hit the road Monday and play four games in five nights against Central Division opponents, starting Tuesday in Cranbrook against the Kootenay Ice.