The Kelowna Rockets look to stave off elimination one more time as they host the Portland Winterhawks Sunday in Game 6 of their WHL Western Conference semifinal series.
In Portland on Friday night, a breakaway goal by Jessey Astles in overtime led the Rockets a 2-1 victory, cutting the Hawks lead to three games to two.
The Rockets held off several charges from the Hawks but several key plays allowed the Rockets to grit out a win. The Rockets killed off a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes. They were physical, with Evan Bloodoff catching Ryan Johansen with an open ice blast that popped Johansen’s helmet off and sent the star to the Hawks bench.
“I thought our guys worked very hard and showed a lot of character last night to allow the series to come back to Kelowna for game 6,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska.
In overtime, one had the sense that it would be a grinder that would get the winner. Seven minutes in it was Astles, who intercepted a pass at the Rockets blueline. He was off to the races and after he lifted the water bottle and his teammates swarmed him said My legs are still rubber, I couldn’t breathe when everyone jumped on me.”
Goalie Adam Brown said he thought it might be Astles, who scored his third of the season, that might get it.
“I was already at the blueline when it went in,” said Brown, who stopped 55 of 56 shots. “I don’t have proof but I thought it might be Astles.”
Heading into Sunday’s Game 6, the Rockets are hoping for a sellout crowd to give the team a boost and a home ice advantage.
“We’re excited to be back home,” said Huska. “We’re looking forward to playing in front of a large crowd.”
Rockets fans snapped up over 750 tickets Saturday but there are still plenty available as the WHL Western Conference semi final series between the Rockets and the Winterhawks is back in Kelowna for game six.