The floundering Kelowna Rockets entered the past weekend on a six-game losing streak. In fact, the team had gone 1-7 since returning from the Christmas break.
Or how about a sterling “0-for-2019” so far?
Improbably, the Rockets proceeded to waltz into Everett and shutout the Western Conference-leading Silvertips 2-0 on Friday night.
Goaltender James Porter was outstanding, turning aside 40 shots to earn the clean sheet. It was the first time the Silvertips have been blanked at the Angel of the Winds Arena this season.
The only other time Everett has been held off the score sheet this season was back on Oct. 23 when the ‘Tips dropped a 3-0 decision at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert to the league-leading Raiders.
Coincidentally, the Rockets departed Everett and headed for home where those very same Raiders were licking their chops, ready to pounce on the tired and weary hosts.
The Rockets arrived home in Kelowna about 5:00 am on Saturday morning.
Prince Albert enjoyed a much shorter drive the night before after knocking off the Kamloops Blazers, 4-1.
Some pomp and ceremony preceded the affair as retired National Hockey League defenceman Josh Gorges, captain of the Rockets 2004 Memorial Cup championship team, was honoured before puck drop. Also of note, Raiders bench boss Marc Habscheid and assistant coach Jeff Truitt were part of the Rockets coaching staff on that Memorial Cup winning team.
The Raiders and Rockets then produced the most entertaining tilt of the season at Prospera Place.
Nolan Foote scored twice, once in the shootout, and added two assists as the Rockets upset the the Raiders 4-3.
It was a hard night for Foote, who now leads the Rockets with 22 goals. The 18-year-old was a frequent target as the Raiders made a point to bump and grind on the 6-foot-3, 188-pound forward from start to finish.
“I’m fine with that,” said Foote, who was visibly elated with the outcome. “I think it’s a good thing to have a target on my back. It was a fun game to play in and I’m glad they (Raiders) played hard. I thought I played through the hits and it was a good game.”
In the shootout, Nolan Foote shot second for Kelowna. While certainly not a thing of beauty, he snuck a shot past goaltender Ian Scott to nail down an important extra point in the standings.
“I’m proud of the team,” Foote said after potting the game-winner. “I mean, to come out and beat Everett last night and get back late and play I think our best game of the year against the number one team, it’s a huge achievement and I think it’s well deserved.
“Every guy in there played unbelievable. I’m just so proud of everyone.”
Rocket Fuel…With the two victories on the weekend over arguably the top two teams in the WHL, the Rockets are 19-22-3-1, good for a seven-point lead on both Kamloops and Prince George in the division standings. Victoria is three points up on Kelowna with three games in hand…The Raiders outshot Kelowna 33-30…Three stars were Foote, Basran and Hannoun…The Rockets went 1-for-3 on the power play. Raiders were 0-for-4…Rockets scratched D Cayde Augustine…Kaedan Korczak, Foote and Thomson have left Kelowna for Red Deer, Alberta where the trio will participate in the 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday night.