LETHBRIDGE - The Kelowna Rockets scored scored two goals less than a minute apart in the first period and then held on in the 3rd period to defeat the Lethbridge Hurricanes 3-1 Wednesday night.
After a rather slow start to this game, the Rockets got things going with a pair of goals less than a minute apart. Carter Rigby moved through centre ice and at the Hurricanes blueline, he hammered a low shot along the ice which beat Ty Rimmer from a long way out to give Kelowna a 1-0 lead. Rimmer was partially screened by his own defenceman on the play. Less than a minute later, the Rockets would get another goal, this one on a power play. JT Barnett's shot was stopped by Rimmer, but the puck trickled through him and just crossed the goal line, giving the Rockets a quick 2-0 lead. Lethbridge had 3 or 4 outstanding chances to score in the opening period, but Kelowna goalie Jordan Cooke was great between the pipes and the Rockets would hold on to that 2-0 lead through 20 minutes of play. The Rockets held a slight edge in shots 11-10.
In the second, the Hurricanes would finally get on the score sheet. Connor Sutton took a pass out in front the Rockets goal and roofed a shot on Cooke to cut the Kelowna lead to 2-1. That was Sutton's first-ever goal in the Western Hockey League. The Canes had a few chances late in the period to get back to even terms, but the Rockets would hold on a take that one goal lead into the dressing room after 40 minutes of play. The shots favoured Kelowna 18-15.
In the third, the Hurricanes would put on the pressure to try and find the equalizer. They hit the post not once, not twice, not three times, but 6 times in the final period and just couldn't score. The Canes pulled the goalie late, but Colton Heffley would ice the game with an empty netter to seal the game for the Rockets 3-1. Kelowna out shot the Hurricanes 27-21. The Canes finished the game 0/4 on the power play and the Rockets went 1/2. The loss drops the Canes record to 16-15-1-4 on the season and with Saskatoon winning their 4th in row, Lethbridge has some serious company in the Eastern Conference standings with the Blades just two points back. Swift Current is 4 points behind the Hurricanes. Both the Blades and Broncos have games in hand on Lethbridge.
TIME TO MAKE A "STATEMENT"
Hurricanes Head Coach and Rich Preston was looking at these games against Kelowna and Kamloops as "statement" games. He says it time for his team to step up against two of the best teams in the West and show them what the Hurricanes are made of. Preston commented to me this team have beat Edmonton and Prince Albert here in the East and now it's time for this Lethbridge club to make a statement.
The Hurricanes will take on another top notch Western Conference team on Friday (Dec. 14) as they play host to the Kamloops Blazers. This will be the second and final meeting of the season between the two teams. Kamloops won the first match-up in Lethbridge a few months ago with a victory in overtime after the Canes came storming back to tie the game in the 3rd period. That was actually a big game for the Hurricanes. Although they didn't, it was that game which helped turn their season around after a slow start. The Canes will play host to Regina next Tuesday (Dec. 18) in their final game before the WHL's Christmas break.