This has quickly turned into a playoff nightmare for Dillon Dube and the Kelowna Rockets.
Dube got ejected for the second time in three games — he’s also still pointless in the series — and the B.C. Division champion Rockets are suddenly facing elimination, on the brink of getting swept in the first round by the wild-card Tri-City Americans.
Nothing has gone right for Kelowna to this point, and Game 3 got off to a disastrous start again.
Tri-City opened the scoring on an early power play — netting its seventh man-advantage goal of the series — and Dube was hit with another game misconduct midway through the first period, less than a minute after the Americans had made it 2-0.
There was no overcoming that double-whammy, as the hosts rolled to a 5-3 win on Wednesday night in Kennewick, Wash., and a 3-0 series lead in this best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal.
As a result, the Rockets are in must-win mode for the rest of the first round — needing to prevail tonight just to force a Game 5 back in Kelowna on Saturday. And the Rockets may be without Dube for that do-or-die, should the WHL issue a suspension for his second major penalty of the series.
It will certainly be reviewed, but Dube doesn’t have a track record as a dirty player and he already missed most of Game 3, so that might be working in his favour. However, it’s been one blow after another for Kelowna’s top centre who captained Canada to gold at this year’s World Juniors.
Dube was ejected from the series opener in Kelowna last Thursday for crashing into Tri-City goaltender Patrick Dea with 10 seconds left in the second period, assessed a major for charging despite absorbing a cross-check in the back from Jake Bean that caused their collision.
In Game 3, Dube got tossed for kneeing Americans defenceman Dylan Coghlan away from the play at 10:31 of the first period. Coghlan left the game but did return for the second period, which may also bode well for Dube’s chances of suiting up in tonight’s Game 4.
Regardless, the Rockets now need to reel off four wins in a row to advance to the B.C. Division final against either the Vancouver Giants or the Victoria Royals, with underdog Vancouver leading that series 2-1 heading into tonight’s Game 4 in Langley.
It’ll be difficult for Kelowna to stay alive with or without Dube, who was shockingly held off the scoresheet in a wild 9-7 defeat in Game 2 at Prospera Place on Saturday after getting kicked out of the 5-0 shutout loss in Game 1.
In Game 3, Morgan Geekie scored his playoff-leading fifth and sixth goals, and Michael Rasmussen also netted his fifth for the Americans, with Juuso Valimaki and Brett Clayton getting their firsts.
Carsen Twarynski, with his second, Kole Lind, with his third, and Conner Bruggen-Cate, with his first, replied for the Rockets.