The Kelowna Rockets parlayed yet another quick start into a 7-4 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Wednesday.
The Rockets are now 20-2-1-1 when leading after the first period.
“We struggled with execution with the puck a little bit and made some mistakes in the defensive zone,” said Smith. “But we’ll take the win.”
The Rockets opened the scoring at 5:14, a goal that was a gift when Chiefs defenceman Ty Smith fanned on a clearing pass. The puck lay in wait near the crease for Jack Cowell, who had no shooting space and promptly dished off to Kyle Topping cruising into the slot. Topping made no mistake, sliding the puck under goaltender Donovan Buskey.
Rookie defenceman Kaeden Korczak made it 2-0 when he tallied his first WHL goal at 14:57. He corralled the puck at the Chiefs blueline, then ripped a shot on goal that Buskey surely didn’t see past a maze of players in front of the net.
The Chiefs were gritty throughout the affair and created a stir in the building by scoring the next three goals in short order, a span of 3:44.
Late in the first frame, Jeff Faith got Spokane on the board, then the Chiefs opened the second period with a pair of goals by Tyson Helgeson and Jaret Anderson-Dolan in the first 2:11 of the stanza.
However, the Chiefs 3-2 advantage was short-lived as the Rockets answered at 3:37 to knot the score.
Nolan Foote finished off a three-on-two rush into the Chiefs zone, taking a slick pass from Leif Mattson before stuffing the puck past Buskey for his 12th of the season.
Later in the frame, Cal Foote gave the Rockets a 4-3 lead for good with his seventh of the season, a power play goal. Kole Lind went rink-wide to Topping who teed it up for Foote. The Tampa Bay Lightning first rounder drilled a shot past Buskey from the point to give Kelowna the lead at 14:20.
“He’s a great player in this league, an anchor on our back end,” said Rockets head coach Jason Smith of Cal Foote. “He competes and has poise and does a lot of things right all the time.”
A total of 5,372 supporters took in the game and enjoyed a brief pre-game ceremony to honour Cal Foote and Dillon Dube for their gold medal win with Team Canada at the World Junior championship. Dube was not in the building, as he is away recovering from the flu.
Braydyn Chizen scored the game winner at 7:53 of the third when he took a pass at his own blueline from Nolan Foote, skated into the Chiefs zone and ripped a shot along the ice past Buskey.
Zach Fischer scored for Spokane to inch the Chiefs closer at 15:41, but Topping and Kole Lind scored in the final two minutes to seal the verdict.
When leading after two periods, the Rockets are now 21-1-0-1.
The game was also a homecoming of sorts for Chiefs head coach, Dan Lambert. The St. Boniface, Manitoba native was the Rockets head coach when it won the WHL championship in 2015. Following that season, Lambert left Kelowna and accepted an offer from the Buffalo Sabres where he spent two seasons in the organization. After the Sabres made sweeping changes, Lambert was released and accepted an offer to join the Chiefs.
The game on Wednesday marked his first return to Prospera Place with Spokane.
You can click right here for an article published in The Daily Courier that speaks to Lambert’s return to Kelowna.
Post-game Interview: Jason Smith click here
Post-game Interview: Kyle Topping click here
Rocket Fuel…The Rockets have won 14 of their last 15 at home and sit atop the B.C. Division standings at 26-12-2-1, one point ahead of the Vancouver Giants. The Rockets have three games in hand…Kelowna was outshot, 32-25…Three stars were Cal Foote, Topping and Fischer…Topping and Carsen Twarynski had three points each…Rockets scratched Dillon Dube, Erik Gardiner, Ted Brennan, and Liam Kindree…Starting goaltender Roman Basran appeared to injure his left leg at the 2:59 mark of the first period when made the splits to make a huge save on Fischer. He stayed in the game briefly, but left the ice two minutes later. James Porter came on in relief…The Rockets travel this weekend for games in Seattle (Friday) and Vancouver (Saturday). Next home game is Wednesday at 7:05pm against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
(DUBNetwork thanks Kevin Bain and the Kelowna Rockets for the audio/video)