Rockets edge Royals in first-place showdown

The Kelowna Rockets got what they needed on Monday afternoon against the Victoria Royals; a hard-fought 5-4 victory that enabled the home side to leap frog back into the top spot in the B.C. Division standings.

However, the Rockets also got plenty of what they don’t need at this point in the regular season; some bad news on the injury front.

Kole Lind

Midway through the second period, Kole Lind cut toward the Royals net and got a shot away from the slot just as defenceman Ralph Jarratt stepped into the Rockets leading-scorer. The collision sent Lind sprawling to the ice where he lay until he received assistance to the Rockets dressing room. He did not return to the game. Jarratt was not penalized.

Lind has scored 31 times and added 47 assists to lead the Rockets with 78 points in 47 games this season. It is expected the Rockets will ask the Western Hockey League office to review the hit this week. Early indications suggest Lind may miss up to a week.

James Porter

Later in the game, midway through the third period, goaltender James Porter was unable to bounce back from a collision initiated when Dube’s effort on the backcheck appeared to send Royals forward Andrei Grishakov hard into the crease. Brodan Salmond came on in relief and shut the door over the final 8:40 of the game.

Porter recently sat out 11 games with an upper body injury, a suspected concussion suffered in mid-January.

Matthew Phillips opened the scoring for Victoria, scoring his 42nd of the season on a penalty shot. The tally gave Phillips 92 points on the season, a new Royals team record.

Lind answered with his 30th of the season, then Noah Gregor put the Royals back in front with his 21st. Lind tallied his 31st of the season at 19:07 of the first to send the teams to intermission tied 2-2.

Gordie Ballhorn

Kelowna scored three straight in the second stanza as Dillon Dube (25th), Carsen Twarynski (35th) and Gordie Ballhorn (4th) beat Griffen Outhouse to stake the Rockets to a 5-2 lead. Dube led the offence on the night with a goal and two assists. Defenceman Cal Foote chipped in with two helpers.

Tyler Soy added his 29th before the end of the period to narrow the gap to 4-2 after 40 minutes.

Grishakov scored his 18th, a power play goal at 11:01 of the third period, but that was as close as the Royals would come.

Kelowna (34-17-4-1) is now one point ahead of Victoria in the standings, with two games in hand on the Royals. Kelowna is 5-3-2 in its last ten games.

Victoria (34-20-3-1) is 7-3 in its last 10, including a sweep of the Rockets on Vancouver Island this past weekend. The Royals won 6-1 on Friday, then 4-3 in overtime on Saturday.

The season series between the teams is now history. Kelowna earned a 4-3-1 record during the eight games, while Victoria went 4-3-0-1. Each team won once in the other’s building, one game went into overtime and one game was decided in a shootout.

Both teams will play three games in four nights this coming week.

The two B.C. Division leaders will each host the Red Deer Rebels and the Edmonton Oil Kings. Kelowna travels to Kamloops on Friday, while the Royals host Vancouver on Saturday.

Rockets Fuel…Announced attendance was 5,625…Three stars were Dube, Lind and Phillips…Rockets scratched James Hilsendager, Liam Kindree,  Nolan Foote, Colum McGauley, Wil Kushniryk and Roman Basran… Kelowna was 2-for-5 on the power play, while the Royals were 1-for-3.

Post-Game Interview: Head Coach Jason Smith (click here)

Post-Game Interview: Dillon Dube (click here)

(DUBNetwork thanks Kevin Bain and the Kelowna Rockets for the audio/video.)

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Glen Erickson

WHL supporter for more than 40 years. Spent the past 11 years in Kelowna, B.C. as WHL Writer for Hockey’s Future, collaborating on prospect rankings, covered two World Junior Championships, four Top Prospects Games, and a handful of Canada/Russia Super Series events. Still feel the sting from my beloved Saskatoon Blades never winning a league title, but enjoyed witnessing the Kelowna Rockets win two WHL championships on home ice. The passion of the players continues to draw me to the rink.