Two teams heading in opposite directions hooked up in Kelowna Wednesday night as the home-town Rockets took on the visiting Chilliwack Bruins.
The red-hot Rockets extended their six game winning streak to seven with a 6-4 victory. The Bruins dropped their sixth straight and saw their overall record dip to 21-25-2-2.
Ex-teammates got this one off to a scrappin’ start just 45 seconds in, as Chilliwack’s Curt Gogol and Kelowa’s Mitchell Callahan dropped the gloves at center ice. In a strong contender for bout of the year, the heavyweights bombed away with rights and lefts.
The 6,037 in attendance at Prospera Place scored it a draw, cheering the combatants off the ice.
Back to the action, Mike Forsyth opened the scoring for the Bruins at 2:07, popping in the rebound of a Jesse Zgraggen shot that missed the net and caromed straight off the end boards. Forsyth’s 8th of the year put Chilliwack up 1-0, but the Rockets quickly answered on a goal by Cody Chikie.
The reigning WHL player of the week caught up to a dump in and punched it past Bruins netminder Lucas Gore at 4:20, notching his 11th of the season.
The Bruins had the last laugh in the first period.
Kevin Sundher scored a greasy goal, cutting in front of the Rockets net to poke home the rebound of a Tyler Stahl point shot. Kelowna keeper Adam Brown complained vociferously, but Sundher’s 17th counted, restoring the lead for the visitors.
Chilliwack might have had another if not for the heroics of Kelowna keeper Adam Brown, who shut the door on a Roman Horak shorthanded breakaway.
The Bruins capped off the period with a huge penalty kill. Sundher (slashing) and Brandon Manning (high sticking) were sent to the sin bin, giving Kelowna a five-on-three advantage for 1:14. But Chilliwack’s 14th-ranked PK snuffed out the threat.
Shots on goal in period one favoured Kelowna 12-11.
Penalties and special teams were the downfall of the good guys as Kelowna took over in period two. The Rockets scored twice in the middle frame, the first one coming at 3:17 off the stick of journeyman defenceman Zak Stebner.
The 19-year-old scored his fourth of the season on a harmless-looking shot from the far right boards. Gore might have been partially screened on the play, not reacting until the puck was past him and into the net.
The Rockets took their first lead of the game five minutes later on a shorthanded goal by Evan Bloodoff. With the Bruins on the power play, Sundher bobbled a puck at the point and Bloodoff was off to the races. Storming down the wing, the 20-year-old went stick-side on Gore for his 14th of the season.
Chilliwack briefly tied the game at 9:03 when some nifty dipsy-doodling by Robin Soudek led to a Roman Horak tally.
But two power play goals in 34 seconds gave Kelowna momentum. A Bruins penalty parade saw them twice put themselves two men down. Bloodoff scored his second of the game at 14:38, converting a feed from Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Tyson Barrie.
When Chilliwack coach Marc Habscheid complained about the 7-2 imbalance in penalties favouring Kelowna, he was handed a two minute bench minor and another five-on-three advantage for the Rockets.
That led to a goal by Abbotsford native Geordie Wudrick, who wired a slap shot past Gore at 15:12.
The Bruins had a nice chance to inch closer late in the middle frame as Soudek led a shorthanded two-on-one rush with Kevin Sundher. Soudek’s dish was perfect, but Sundher rang his shot off the goal post.
Shots on goal in period two favoured Kelowna 14-8.
Ryan Howse hit another goal post in the opening minutes of the final frame, but his Bruins couldn’t inch any closer to the front-running Rockets. Colton Scissons scored the sixth Kelowna goal into an empty net with less than two minutes remaining, and Roman Horak wrapped up the scoring with a last minute power play goal.
The three stars were Bloodoff (first), Barrie (second) and Sundher (third).
The Bruins remain on the road Friday, visiting the Kamloops Blazers. Chilliwack is back home Saturday night hosting those same Blazers at Prospera Centre.