The Kelowna Rockets power play was effective early and often on Saturday, enabling the team to forge ahead of the visiting Red Deer Rebels, establishing a lead it would not relinquish in a 5-2 win at Prospera Place.
The Rockets improved to 10-6-2-1 on the season, good for second place in the B.C. Division. It was Kelowna second win of the weekend with two more games to come on a current four-game home stand.
The Rebels are 0-5-1-0 in its last six. Red Deer entered the game on the heels of a 3-2 loss the previous night to the Kamloops Blazers.
Just 29 seconds into the affair against Kelowna, Alexander Alexeyev was banished for slashing, allowing the Rockets power play an early opportunity.
At 1:54, Kelowna made the visitors pay as Dillon Dube walked in from the blueline, managed a nifty toe drag to control puck and ripped a shot high past Rebels goalie Ethan Anders. It was Dube’s eighth of the season and his third on the power play.
When Chris Douglas was thumbed for cross checking before the five-minute mark, the Rockets stretched their early lead with another power play tally. Rookie forward Liam Kindree took a cross-ice feed from Leif Mattson, walked in from the faceoff circle and beat Anders cleanly for his second goal of the season.
Kindree, 17, is beginning to hit his stride with the Rockets, handling the puck with increased confidence and finding his way in the offensive zone. Last season with the Vancouver Giants of the BCMML, Kindree collected 67 points in 40 games.
Red Deer narrowed the gap two minutes later on the power play when Lane Zablocki and Jack Flaman worked the puck to former Victoria Royals forward Jared Dmytriw, who beat James Porter from well out with a screened shot. However, that was as close as the Rebels would get on the evening.
The Rockets scored their third power play goal of the night near the game’s midway point. Jack Cowell moved the puck to James Hilsendager at the blueline and the 20-year-old defenceman fired a shot that snuck past Anders just inside the goal post. It was Hilsendager’s second of the campaign and resulted in Anders departure. Riley Lamb came in to replace Anders for the remainder of the tilt.
But the Rockets greeted Lamb rudely just 26 seconds later when defenceman Braydyn Chizen found space in the slot, took a feed from Kole Lind and buried his first of the season.
Chizen, 18, a 2017 Minnesota Wild draft pick, played in only his 10th game of the season. If the 6’6, 196-pounder can remain healthy and in the lineup, he will provide an important presence on the Rockets blueline as the season wears on.
Lind would add his 11th of the season at the 16:53 mark of the middle period to send the Rockets to the dressing room after 40 minutes with a 5-1 lead.
Carson Sass was credited with the Rebels second goal early in the final frame when his shot from the blueline slid past Porter when it deflected off of Chizen’s stick in front of the Rockets goal.
Porter, making his 11th start in the Rockets past 14 games, upped his record to 7-2-2 on the season and has firmly implanted himself as the Rockets number one goaltender. To verify, the Rockets announced on Saturday that goaltender Brodan Salmond would be sidelined for the next four to six weeks as he nurses a nagging MCL injury.
Post game interview: Liam Kindree (click here)
Post game interview: Jason Smith (click here)
Rockets Fuel…Kelowna outshot Red Deer, 32-29…The three stars were Kindree, Lind and Hilsendager…Kindree finished with a goal and an assist…Forward Leif Mattson chipped in with two assists…After scoring twice on the power play and once shorthanded the night before in a 5-4 overtime win over the Vancouver Giants, the Rockets went 3-for-6 on the power play against the Rebels…Next up for the Rockets is a home game on Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
(DUBNetwork thanks Kevin Bain and the Kelowna Rockets for its game day video production)