If ever the Kelowna Rockets needed a point-stealing performance from their goaltender, perhaps it was the tilt against their B.C. Division rivals from the island, the Victoria Royals.
And so it was, that Roman Basran worked his magic on Friday night, stopping 28-of-29 shots as the Rockets handed the Royals a 3-1 defeat in front of 5,033 fans at Prospera Place.
“He’s playing solid,” Rockets head coach Adam Foote said of Basran’s performance. “He seems like he’s calm and has his emotions in check. When he’s focused on his game, he’s going to be hard to beat.”
Kelowna (11-13-1) came into the game having had some success offensively against Victoria, scoring 16 goals in the first three meetings. However, on this night, goals were hard to come by as both Basran and veteran Griffen Outhouse stole the show.
Basran, making his third consecutive start, was perfect in the first frame, especially with the Rockets playing shorthanded. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound keeper proved to be Kelowna’s best penalty-killer, especially during a late Royals power play where he made at least three five-alarm saves to send the teams to intermission in a scoreless tie.
At the other end, Outhouse provided a typically solid performance through 20 minutes. In the process, the 20-year-old set a new Royals franchise record for games played by a goaltender with 166, surpassing the mark of 165 set by Coleman Vollrath.
Basran, selected in the third round (64th overall) by the Rockets at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, has appeared in 29 games during his junior hockey career.
Kelowna opened the scoring at the 10:47 mark of the second stanza, thanks in large part to some undisciplined play by the Royals. With a two-man advantage for 1:39, the Rockets hemmed in the Royals and when a Lassi Thomson blast squeezed through the pads of Outhouse, Kyle Topping shoved the puck over the goal line for his 10th of the campaign.
Basran held the fort again, making five saves in the period, including a tidy bit of leather larceny in the dying moments when he foiled D-Jay Jerome on a breakaway.
“The whole time I knew he was going to go glove,” Basran said, while downplaying the quality of the save. “I kind of just gave it to him, then took it away. I kind of sold it halfway through the catch. It wasn’t really that nice.”
The Rockets came into the game with an 8-0 record when leading after 40 minutes and went ahead 2-0 with 5:55 to play. Liam Kindree one-timed a pass from Erik Gardiner for his fifth of the season as the Rockets converted a 3-on-1 break.
The Royals (12-7) pulled Outhouse with just under three minutes to play and a Rockets shot at the empty cage hit the post. Just under a minute later, Kaid Oliver spoiled Basran’s shutout bid, chipping in a rebound narrow the gap to 2-1.
Leif Mattson added an empty-netter with seven seconds left to ice the affair.
It was the fourth meeting between the two teams so far this season and with the win, the Rockets are first to hold serve on home ice. The road team had won each of the previous three contests.
The Rockets play the Silvertips in Everett tonight, another important game against the top team in the Western Conference. Everett is 17-7-1 on the season.
“These guys like to fly and skate,” said Foote when asked about potential that his charges might be playing tired in Everett. “It was good to play a team like Victoria; they play similar. If you want to rest out there, they’re going to make you pay, so our guys are aware of that.”
In other B.C. Division play, the Prince George Cougars kept pace with the Rockets, knocking off the Regina Pats, 5-3. The Cougars have two games in hand on Kelowna. The Kamloops Blazers defeated the Tri City Americans, 5-1 and now have four games in hand on the Rockets.
ICE CHIPS: Three stars were Basran, Outhouse and Kindree. . . . The Rockets were 1-for-4 on the power play. The Royals went 0-for-3. . . . Rockets scratched C Michael Farren, D Kyle Pow, D Braydyn Chizen and C Kyle Crosbie. . . . Kelowna continues to occupy the second wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference. . . . Next home game is Wednesday against the Vancouver Giants.