The Kelowna Rockets overcame a 3-1 deficit midway through the second period and scored three unanswered goals to defeat the Prince George Cougars 4-3 in front of 4,727 elated supporters at Prospera Place on Friday night.
The Rockets, now 2-21-2 in games when trailing after 40 minutes, earned an important two points over a B.C. Division rival.
“We could have easily packed it in tonight,” said Rockets head coach Adam Foote. “We’re missing guys, make-shifting lines, guys took shots in their hands. They wanted to play and that’s a huge sign for us.”
What really had the Rockets doing a slow burn on the night was a blatant head-shot early in the third period, when Cougars forward Josh Maser made contact on Nolan Foote with an elbow. Kaedan Korczak took Maser to task and the altercation seemed to jump start the Kelowna bench.
“The guys showed they care,” said coach Foote. “They were upset, pissed off, and they should be. It was a blind-sided hit that’s called in the National Hockey League and I don’t know how four guys missed it.”
For his efforts, Korczak was assessed a minor, major and misconduct. He spent 17 minutes of the third period watching from the penalty box. His teammates had his back.
Prince George hemmed-in the Rockets for much of the first frame, creating traffic deep in the attacking zone and wreaking havoc in front of goaltender James Porter. The efforts paid off handsomely for the visitors, who took a 3-1 lead into the intermission.
Defenceman Cole Moberg sifted a shot past a screened Porter for a power-play goal at 13:13. Three minutes later, a Ryan Schoettler point shot bounced in off the hand of Josh Curtis. At that point, Prince George held a 14-3 edge in shots on goal.
On the Cougars’ next power-play opportunity, Nolan Foote corralled a neutral-zone turnover, walked in alone and beat goaltender Taylor Gauthier five-hole at 18:14. The shorthanded marker was his 27th goal of the season. Foote also tallied a shorthanded goal on Wednesday against the Spokane Chiefs.
Prince George answered 53 seconds later, on the same power play, when Curtis converted a pass from Tyson Upper to restore the Cougars’ two-goal lead through 20 minutes.
The power play produced the Rockets’ next goal midway through the second stanza. Korczak dished to Cayde Augustine and the rookie counted his first Western Hockey League goal when his point shot caromed past Gauthier off the goalpost.
In the final frame, Kelowna tied the affair at 9:08 when Leif Mattson and Kyle Crosbie worked the puck to Foote, who ripped a one-timer past Gauthier.
Three minutes later, Mark Liwiski buried a rebound off a Michael Farren shot to give the Rockets their first lead of the game. Liwiski’s goal stood up as the winner.
Kelowna is now 22-26-4-1 and remains in third place in the B.C. Division, four points ahead of Kamloops. The Blazers, who lost 3-1 at home to the Vancouver Giants on Friday night, have two games in hand on Kelowna.
The Rockets travel to Kamloops today for a date with the Blazers at the Sandman Centre tonight.
ICE CHIPS: Prince George (16-31-4-2) has lost 12 in a row. . . . Prince George outshot Kelowna 31-25. . . . Roman Basran came on in relief of Porter, who made blocked 13-of-16 shots in the first period. Basran shut the door with 15 saves over the final 40 minutes. . . . Gauthier blocked 17-of-20 shots before limping to the dressing room with 11 minutes to play. Tyler Brennan made four saves, but gave up the game-winner in his WHL debut. . . . Three stars were Foote, Curtis and Augustine. . . . Kelowna was 1-for-5 on the power play. P.G. went 2-for-4. . . . Rockets scratched injured RW Liam Kindree and C Ted Brennan. LW Conner Bruggen-Cate sat out the second of a two-game suspension. . . . The Rockets dressed two affiliate players, D Jackson DeSouza and F Steel Quiring. Both are members of the Okanagan Rockets of the B.C. Major Midget League. . . . Next home game is Friday against the Everett Silvertips.