On a night when his Team Canada teammate jumped back into the lineup, Cal Foote tallied the overtime winner as the Kelowna Rockets edged the Lethbridge Hurricanes, 4-3.
It was Dillon Dube’s first game back with the Rockets since a bout with the flu following the world junior championship. Dube’s presence certainly had an impact on the proceedings Wednesday at Prospera Place, as he chipped in with a goal and an assist.
“He didn’t miss a beat. He was flying out there,” said Cal Foote after the game. “You can definitely see that (Dillon) has a lot of speed and he uses that through the neutral zone. Obviously it helped to get him back.”
Back in November, the Rockets dispatched the ’Canes 7-4. But on this night, the new-look Hurricanes produced a gritty, physical effort that included an outstanding performance by rookie goalie Reece Klassen. The teams will meet again next Wednesday in Lethbridge.
“We play them in about a week’s time,” Cal Foote said when asked about the overtime win. “So we’re going to see that team again and we’re going to want to bring it on the road. A little bit of motivation there, for sure.”
The ’Canes entered the affair on a four-game winning streak and promptly opened the scoring just 42 seconds in. Jordy Bellerive picked up a loose puck near the half-wall and beat Brodan Salmond five-hole with a quick wrister.
With both James Porter and Roman Basran sidelined with injuries, it was Salmond’s first start since Nov. 4 in Victoria. He was solid on the night, turning away 31 of 34 shots.
The Rockets drew even at 8:08 when Dube carried the puck into the attacking zone, took a stride toward the slot and snapped his 19th of the season past Klassen high stick side.
The Rockets took a two-goal lead early in the middle period.
At 4:05, Kole Lind drifted a slap shot from inside the ’Canes’ blueline that hit a defender in front before finding the back of the net. It was Lind’s 22nd of the season. Then Connor Bruggen-Cate beat Calen Addison to a loose puck at centre ice, raced in and stuffed the puck under Klassen. The shorthanded tally at 8:52 was Bruggen-Cate’s 11th goal of the season.
Lethbridge answered at 13:27 when West Kelowna product Brad Morrison worked the puck into the Rockets’ zone and fed Tate Olson for his first of the season.
The ’Canes squared the match at 12:27 of the third period when Taylor Ross carried the puck in on a two-on-one. With Addison his decoy, Ross took a shot that hit Salmond high and dribbled just over the goal line.
Midway through the overtime period, the coaching staff sent out Lind, Dube and Cal Foote. Predictably, the trio hemmed the ’Canes in their own zone and Foote buried the game-winner, his eight goal of the season at the 2:55 mark.
Ice chips . . . The Rockets have won 15 of their last 16 at home and sit atop the B.C. Division standings at 28-13-2-1, three points ahead of the Vancouver Giants. The Rockets have one game in hand . . . Kelowna is 23-1-0-1 when leading after 40 minutes . . . Three stars were Dube, Klassen and Cal Foote . . . Announced attendance was 5,103, which brings the Rockets’ total on the season to 105,489, according to the WHL website. Through 21 homes games, that’s an average of 5,023 . . . Rockets scratched Erik Gardiner, Liam Kindree, Kelvin Hair, James Hilsendager (ill), Porter and Basran. Backup duties were handled by Cole Tisdale, coincidentally, from Lethbridge. He is the Rockets’ eighth-round pick from the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft . . . The Rockets travel to Seattle on Friday and return home to face the Victoria Royals on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.