The Kelowna Rockets out-slugged the Chilliwack Bruins in a clash of B.C. division contenders Friday night, stealing a 4-3 victory at Prospera Centre.
Kelowna weathered an awful first period, took the lead for good in the second and shut things down in the third to draw first blood in the season series.
The Bruins opened the scoring at 5:41 of the first period on a goal by Mitch Topping. The 17-year-old blueliner took a feed from Kevin Sundher and blew a slap-shot past Kelowna keeper Jordon Cooke for his first of the season.
The Rockets took less than a minute to answer back.
With Kelowna on a brief power play, Shane McColgan evened the score with a top shelf backhander, beating Bruins netminder Lucas Gore for his first of the year.
The game took a scary turn a few shifts later when Rockets defenceman Mitchell Chapman stuck out a knee on Chilliwack’s Dylen McKinlay. McKinlay flew head over heels, and lay crumpled on the ice for several minutes.
Teammate Zach Habscheid came to his teammate’s defence, challenging Chapman to a scrap. Give Habscheid points for challenging one of the tougher guys in the league. He held his own in the fight, and Chapman ended up with a five-minute kneeing major and game misconduct.
The Bruins power play didn’t cash in, but they came awfully close.
Robin Soudek and Roman Horak had several whacks at a loose puck as it straddled the Kelowna goal-line. They believed they’d put it in, raising their sticks in the air. But a lengthy video review deemed otherwise. Despite holding a 15-5 edge in first period shots on goal, the Bruins skated into period two in a 1-1 tie.
Three minutes and 19 seconds into the middle frame, they found themselves trailing 2-1 when Jessey Astles got his stick on a Jason Siebert point shot, re-directing the puck past Gore for his first of the season.
This time Chilliwack had the quick reply, evening the score on a goal by, who else, Ryan Howse. The WHL goal-scoring leader notched his 11th of the year and 100th of his Bruins career at 5:13. Brandon Manning picked up the primary assist, throwing the puck up to Howse as the Rockets started a poorly timed line change.
Howse flew down the right wing and beat Cooke low to the blocker side.
The Prince George native extended his points streak to eight games, with at least one goal or assist in every game this season. Manning stretched his points streak to six games.
The Bruins forged ahead six minutes later on a goal by Jamie Crooks. Linemate Mike Forsyth did most of the work, evading the diving poke-check of MacKenzie Johnston at center ice and leading a two-on-one rush.
His shot was stopped, but Crooks poked home the rebound for his third of the season, bringing the announced crowd of 3,676 to its feet.
But the visitors had the last word in period two, scoring a pair of late goals to quiet the crowd and regain the lead for good.
Antoine Corbin scored on a power play at 15:08, one-timing a feed from McColgan, and Colton Scissons put the Rockets on top at 19:30, finishing off a two-on-one rush with Evan Bloodoff.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Chiliwack 24-13.
The Bruins spent most of the final frame killing penalties and struggled to create offence. The only truly dangerous moment around the Kelowna net came with 11 minutes remaining when Howse and Forsyth both had chances in a frantic goalmouth scramble.
The three stars were Cooke (first star), Crooks (second) and Corbin (third).
Chilliwack is back in action tomorrow night at 7 p.m., hosting the Vancouver Giants at Prospera Centre.