Trevor Wong and the Kelowna Rockets got their do-over.
Wong scored once and added an assist as the Rockets held on to defeat the Lethbridge Hurricanes 5-4 in WHL play on Saturday night at Prospera Place.
“You saw them coming at the end of the second and in the third, for sure,” Wong said of the ’Canes. “We just stayed composed. We’ve got to learn how to win hockey games coming into playoffs. Tonight you saw us lock it down, play D-zone well and we got the win.”
They played great in the first and second, and well enough to win in the third. But that’s an improvement from 2 1/2 weeks ago against the Calgary Hitmen. The Rockets were leading 5-1 after two in that Family Day matinee when Calgary exploded for four goals and the overtime winner of a 6-5 decision.
Kelowna head coach Kris Mallette said he’s not going to dwell on mistakes made or leads that evaporated.
He will stick to the positives.
“All I can think about is Calgary on Family Day,” Mallette said. “Up 5-1 in the same scenario, and our guys didn’t break this time. That’s a very good hockey club across the hall. ... We were able to pull it out, which is fantastic for our group.”
It was nearly perfect in the first, but Lethbridge slowly built momentum after that.
Matthew Wedman scored twice and added an assist as Pavel Novak and Kyle Topping each had a single and a helper.
Kaedan Korczak had a second straight game with two assists, and now has a goal and eight assists in his past six games.
Dylan Cozens, with two and an assist, Ty Nash and Alex Cotton scored for Lethbridge. Brett Davis had three assists.
Beyond the individual offensive stats, though, special teams and goaltending made all the difference.
Kelowna’s Roman Basran made 35 saves as Lethbridge outshot Kelowna 39-25. Hurricanes’ starter Carl Tetachuk allowed five goals on 18 shots — including two goals on the only four shots he faced in the second period. Bryan Thomson came into the game to start the third period and stopped all seven shots he faced.
Lethbridge did score on a delayed penalty call, but went 0-for-5 on the power play. Kelowna was 2-for-3 with the extra man.
It looked early like the Hurricanes could be a team back here for the Memorial Cup.
Nash was unguarded on the doorstep and banged home a rebound to make it 1-0 Hurricanes.
Lethbridge took it easy for the next period and a half, however.
Wong scored his first four minutes later on a heads-up play and a fortunate bounce. Wedman circled behind the net from the right wing to the left circle. He backhanded a knee-high pass into the slot, and Wong knifed between the defence to deflect it past Tetachuk.
It was a heads-up play.
“I saw Weds with the puck in the corner,” Wong said. “I drove hard to the net. I think it came up off my stick. I think it did go off my head, and in. Lucky bounce tonight.”
Wedman scored one for himself less than two minutes later when he redirected a point shot from Korczak to give Kelowna the lead.
Novak got into the action thanks to a gritty shot block by Wong. The puck bounced to Novak, who went coast to coast — and wing to wing — to backhand a puck past a screened Tetachuk.
Novak weaved through two defenders, waited for what seemed like eight on nine months before flipping the puck on net. Tetachuk had no idea it was coming with Topping battling a defender out front.
Novak’s 25th this season made it 3-1 heading into the second period.
Topping kept the party going at 9:58 of the middle frame. He found all kinds of room on the right side and wired a wrist shot from the inside hash marks for a 4-1 Rockets advantage.
Wedman scored the eventual game winner when he scooped up a horrible Lethbridge turnover. The Hurricanes’ Oliver Okuliar dropped the puck along the left-wing boards right to Wedman. He turned, took a stride into the high slot and ripped home a wrist shot for a 5-1 lead after two periods.
Lethbridge (37-19-2-5) finally woke up in the third.
Cotton scored at 8:38 when he finished a rush down the right at the open left post. A little over a minute later, Cozens redirected a centering pass after Kelowna couldn’t clear its zone.
Cozens scored again 76 seconds after that. Again, Kelowna couldn’t clear the zone. Cozens found space in the high slot and wristed a shot that fluttered off a defenceman’s leg and looped over Basran.
The win means Kelowna (29-27-3-3) is now six points back of the Victoria Grizzlies and Vancouver Giants, who are tied for second in the B.C. Division with 70 points There are six games to play in the regular season.
Victoria arrives in Kelowna on Wednesday.