The Kelowna Rockets are back in familiar territory in the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Brendan Ranford scored a goal and added an assist as the Kamloops Blazers defeated the injury-laden Rockets 5-1 Sunday at Prospera Place to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
The Rockets also lost the first two games at home in their first-round series with Seattle, before rebounding to defeat the Thunderbirds in seven games.
After Myles Bell gave the Rockets an early 1-0 lead on a power play at 1:35 of the opening period, the Blazers answered quickly as Ranford netted his fourth of the playoffs beating Jordon Cooke at the 3:11 mark.
Dylan Willick netted the go-ahead goal and game winner on a power play in the second period, before the Blazers put the game way in the third period on goals by Chase Suoto, Kale Kessy and Aaron Macklin.
The Rockets, who were outshot 38-30, had several quality scoring chances over the final 40 minutes but simply couldn’t find a way to beat Cole Cheveldave.
“We have to just remind ourselves of what makes us successful and stick with it,” said Huska,” and continue to have that belief so that when we head up to Kamloops on Tuesday, we’re prepared, excited and ready to play.”
Kelowna was without its leading scorer in the 2012-13 playoffs as centre Tyson Baillie sat out Game 2 with a suspension, the length of which has yet to be determined.
Baillie was disciplined for a hit on Kamloops forward Colin Smith in Game 1.
Smith didn’t play for the Blazers on Sunday night.
The Rockets had two more surprise additions to the lineup Sunday.
Forward Carter Rigby, coming off a shoulder injury, played for the first time since January.
Dalton Yorke, a 16-year-old defenceman with the BCMML’s Northeast Chiefs, suited up for the Rockets but played sparingly.
Defenceman Mitchell Wheaton who, like Rigby, hasn’t played since January due to a shoulder injury, returned to the club’s depleted defence on Saturday night.
Games 3 and 4 are set for Tuesday and Wednesday at Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops.
Game 5, if needed, would be played Friday night at Prospera Pla