The Kelowna Rockets are back on top.
In a showdown for first place overall in the Western Hockey League, the Rockets held off the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night at Prospera Place.
Tomas Soustal scored both Kelowna goals and Michael Herringer was stellar in net with 30 saves as the Rockets ended a two-game losing streak.
With the win, Kelowna (35-13-3-0) pulls one point ahead of the Hurricanes (36-15-0-2) for top spot in the WHL.
Head coach Brad Ralph, whose team was playing for the fourth time in five nights, was pleased with the Rockets’ effort and, not surprisingly, the final result.
“It was a huge win,” said Ralph, whose Rockets were coming off losses to Victoria Saturday and Seattle on Sunday. “It was pretty clear we were tired, fourth game in five nights…I thought the guys dug down, it was a good effort.”
Soustal ended a 15-game scoreless drought with his 11th goal of the season on a setup from Rodney Southam in the first period.
His second—the eventual game winner—came on a breakaway early in the third as he slipped the puck between the pads of ‘Canes goalie Stuart Skinner.
“It feels pretty good,” Soustal said of his two-goal effort and the win over Lethbridge. “I mean we battled for first, it was huge for us, we’re back on top so it feels pretty good.”
With Jackson Whistle parked on the sidelines due to injury, Herringer made his 13th consecutive start and was once again at the top his game, earning first-star honours.
The Comox native, who stopped 41 shots two nights earlier in a 2-0 road loss to Seattle, made several key saves in the late going against Lethbridge to pick up his 16th win of the season.
“Herri (Herringer) was great,” Ralph said. “He gives us a chance to win and that’s all you can ask. He made some big saves down the stretch…he was good.”
“The guys blocked a lot of shots, they were in the shooting lanes,” said Herringer. “They made my four games in five nights really easy.”
A new backup for Herringer will arrive in Kelowna on Wednesday. The Rockets have called up 2013 bantam draft pick Brodan Salmond from the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks for the remainder of the WHL season.
Brady Lenardon, who has served as Herringer’s backup since Jan. 1, will return to the KIJHL’s Kelowna Chiefs.
The Rockets will host the Spokane Chiefs on Friday and the Calgary Hitmen on Saturday.