Henrik Rybinski scored the game-winner in overtime — his first goal as a member of the Seattle Thunderbirds — as the visitors escaped Prospera Place with a 3-2 victory over the Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday.
It was the fifth straight one-goal decision for the Rockets, and an important extra point to surrender as the playoff race heats up in the Western Conference.
“I thought we played good,” said coach Adam Foote. “What we have going on right now, I think the guys played a good game, they competed hard.”
The Rockets opened the scoring at 8:03. Mark Liwiski separated a T-Birds defender from the puck and Alex Swetlikoff took it hard to the net against goaltender Roddy Ross. Liwiski circled the net and jammed in the rebound for his fifth of the season and second opening goal in the last two games.
Matthew Wedman tied the contest late in the first period, sneaking a changeup past Roman Basran from the deep slot at 19:04.
Kelowna tilted the ice for most of the second stanza and finally solved Ross again at 15:02. With Kyle Topping in the penalty box, Kyle Crosbie carried the puck into the T-Birds’ zone and wired a wrist shot high stick side for his sixth of the season. It was the Rockets’ third shorthanded goal of the campaign.
Again, Kelowna could not hold the lead.
Seattle won a faceoff late, worked the puck quickly to the point and Tyrel Bauer forced a shot through traffic that bounced off a Rockets defender past Basran at 19:15 of the middle frame.
Perhaps it was appropriate for the teams to enter the third period deadlocked, 2-2. So far this season, Seattle and Kelowna have compiled identical 15-1-1-1 records when leading after two periods.
Late in the third, Kelowna had a two-man advantage for 1:34 but was not able to capitalize — setting the stage for the T-Birds’ game-winning tally in extra time.
“We had three looks that we didn’t take,” said Foote, when asked about the T-Birds’ penalty kill. “If we execute what we wanted to do, it’s there. It’s not what they did. It’s what we didn’t do, in my opinion.”
Kelowna, now 20-24-4-1, dropped three of four against Seattle during the season series.
The T-Birds are now 19-22-5-1 — good for 44 points, one behind Kelowna with a game in hand. Seattle entered the affair on a tear and is now 7-1-1-1 in its past 10 games. The Rockets are 3-6-1-0 in their last 10.
In Kamloops, the host Blazers (19-25-3-1) salvaged a point in the standings, erasing a two-goal deficit before losing 3-2 in overtime to the Vancouver Giants. Kamloops trails the Rockets by three points for third place in the B.C. Division standings.
It became apparent throughout January that Kelowna is committed to playing its youngsters this season. And last night, 15-year-old Trevor Wong was in the lineup.
Wong previously made his WHL debut on Oct. 27 against the Prince George Cougars. As an affiliate player, he is limited to five appearances, but could join the Rockets when his midget team’s season concludes.
Currently, Wong leads the Greater Vancouver Canadiens of the 11-team B.C. Major Midget League with 10 goals and 21 assists in 28 games.
The BCMML will play all of its league games in Kelowna this weekend alongside the Ultimate Bantam Hockey Showcase, but the Canadiens are the odd team out.
With the coming weekend off, Wong will instead suit up for the Rockets again on Friday in Spokane and Saturday at home to rival Kamloops — which would bring his season total to four of a possible five games.
ICE CHIPS: Seattle outshot Kelowna 38-28. . . . Three stars were Basran, Wedman and Liwiski. . . . Both teams went 0-for-3 on the power play. . . . The Rockets are 11-8-4-1 in one-goal games this season. . . . Rockets scratched RW Liam Kindree and C Ted Brennan. Kindree suffered a broken nose and possible concussion on Saturday night when he collided with team mate Cayde Augustine. Brennan is also injured. . . . Attendance was 4,690.