Head coach Brad Ralph liked the way the Kelowna Rockets started on Friday night against the Prince George Cougars.
He couldn’t say the same for the way his team finished.
Brogan O’Brien scored on a breakaway midway through the third period and Ty Edmonds made 30 saves to send the Cougars to a 2-1 victory at Prospera Place, ending the Rockets’ three-game WHL winning streak.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Ralph said of his team’s effort. “At the end of the day, I thought they won the third period, they wanted it more than we did, they outworked us in the third period and won a hockey game because of it.”
The Rockets controlled play in the first 20 minutes, but it was the Cougars who scored first on a shorthanded goal at 10:46 when Jesse Gabrielle slipped in behind the Kelowna defence and beat Jackson Whistle with a deke to the glove side.
O’Brien’s goal in the third was almost a carbon copy, as the 18-year-old forward broke in free for the game winner at 9:32.
“I thought our D, we got caught with our pants down a couple of times there and it led to goals against,” Ralph said.
Kelowna had to cope with a short bench for the game’s last 59 minutes. Rockets’ forward Tomas Soustal dropped the gloves with Josh Anderson just 18 seconds after the opening face off, while Riley Stadel took on Colby McAuley just 28 seconds later.
Both Soustal and Stadel missed the remainder of the game with injuries.
“It didn’t get us off to a very good start,” Ralph said. “Good on those guys for dropping the gloves, but we lost those guys for the game. I don’t know if that played a factor in our mindset tonight, but some guys were tired early in the game, they weren’t ready for those kind of minutes.”
Cole Linaker scored in the second period for the Rockets who generated plenty of offence for the first 40 minutes, but were stymied on several occasions by Edmonds who has a history of making life difficult for the Rockets.
Still, Linaker said the two points were there for the taking.
“I thought we gave away a game tonight,” Linaker said of the Rockets, who outshot P.G. 31-20. “It’s unfortunate because I thought we took it to them at the beginning of the game, but we made a couple of errors and turned into goals for them, so it’s a tough one to swallow, we didn’t come out with a full 60.”
It was the fourth time in the last two weeks the B.C. Division rivals had met, with each team winning twice.
The Rockets (9-5-0-0) will close out a four-game homestand on Saturday when they take on the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Face off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.