Rockets face Giants

Kelowna Rockets forward Conner Bruggen-Cate (20) winds up on the ice in front of Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram (44) and goaltender David Tendeck during WHL action at Prospera Place on Saturday night. The Rockets lost 2-0.

Less than 24 hours after putting a real scare into the Western Conference-leading Everett Silvertips at Prospera Place, the Kelowna Rockets dropped a 2-0 decision to the B.C. Division-leading Vancouver Giants in front of 5,107 supporters at Prospera Place on Saturday night.

The Rockets appeared somewhat lacklustre during the latter half of the tilt against the Giants. However, the hosts were clearly the aggressors for much of the first 30 minutes.

While the back-to-back home games provided a glimpse of the two top teams in the conference, it was unfortunate the matchups also exposed a critical area of weakness within the Rockets’ current edition.

“They’re just not going in right now,” Rockets head coach Adam Foote said when asked about the lack of finish around the net. “We’re getting chances. We’ve just gotta finish. I love our effort after the last two nights, being shorthanded.”

The Rockets have worked diligently with Foote at the helm to shore up defensive-zone coverage. In addition, a young tandem between the pipes has provided consistently solid goaltending. Strides have been made, evidenced by the nature of the results this season.

Prior to the past weekend, the Rockets played seven consecutive one-goal games at Prospera Place. Each was a winnable game for the home team, yet Kelowna prevailed in only three of the contests. Securing some of those squandered points most certainly would have enabled the Rockets to reel in the second-place Victoria Royals.

As it stands now, with 12 games to play, Kelowna trails Victoria by 10 points in the B.C Division standings.

The most glaring area of concern lately has been the Rockets’ inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities. In close contests, a game-breaker is crucial and unfortunately none has stepped forward to strike fear into opponents.

Kelowna has had success when they are the frontrunners, compiling a record of 16-1-1-1 in games they lead heading into the third period.

Alas, the season series against Vancouver is perhaps a microcosm of the Rockets’ offensive challenges, particularly in the four games at Prospera Place where Kelowna has scored only three goals. The Giants have won all four, including the only two shutouts surrendered by the Rockets on home ice this season.

The Rockets are 20th among 22 teams in overall scoring through 56 games and are on pace to score 165 goals as a team this season.

“It’s a combination of the whole group,” Foote said. “You know, executing a pass. We’re trying to do the right thing and we’re missing some execution. They’re doing what we’re asking them to do. I’m real happy with the effort this weekend.”

Vancouver opened the scoring on the power play when Milos Roman finished off a nifty passing sequence with a one-timer that beat Roman Basran cleanly at 13:19 of the second stanza.

The Giants, now 24-1 when leading after 40 minutes, took a 1-0 lead into the second intermission. Then, just 35 seconds into the final frame, Vancouver increased its lead.

Jared Dmytriw, the Giants’ best forward on the night, took a slick backhand feed from Jadon Joseph inside the Rockets’ blue line and ripped a shot past Basran from the slot.

David Tendeck held the fort for the Giants, making his first start against Kelowna this season. Trent Miner carried the load in the previous five games between the teams. Tendeck held the Rockets at bay early on when his mates were collectively a step behind the hosts.

A sprawling glove save on Kyle Crosbie midway through the first period — followed by support from defenceman Alex Kannok-Leipert, who cleared the puck away from the goal line — served notice the Arizona Coyotes’ goaltending prospect was completely dialed in early. Tendeck made 22 saves to earn his third shutout of the season and sixth of his career.

Kelowna (23-28-4-1) remains third in the B.C. Division — four points ahead of the Kamloops Blazers, who now have two games in hand on the Rockets.

The Giants (39-13-2-1) are 16-1-0-1 in their last 18 games and have caught the Everett Silvertips atop the Western Conference standings. Both teams now have 81 points.

The Rockets take to the ice against the Royals at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria on Monday afternoon for a Family Day matinee. The teams will meet again Tuesday night, completing respective schedule runs of four games in five nights. The Rockets have won four of six against Victoria this season.

On Friday, the Rockets are in Spokane to face the Chiefs. Next home game is Saturday against the Blazers.

ICE CHIPS: Vancouver outshot Kelowna, 26-22. . . . Three stars were Dmytriw, Tendeck and Basran. . . . Kelowna was 0-for-6 on the power play. Vancouver was 1-for-5. . . . The Rockets have been shutout six times this season, four times on the road. . . . Vancouver scratches included top-six forwards Dawson Holt, Brayden Watts and Evan Patrician. . . . The Rockets scratched RW Liam Kindree, C Ted Brennan and D Matt Barberis, all sidelined with upper-body injuries. Kindree may be available for the doubleheader in Victoria, but Foote confirmed that Brennan and Barberis are out.