Winterhawks end Rockets' home-ice winning streak
Round one goes to the Portland Winterhawks.
In the first game of a weekend set between two of the Western Hockey League's top teams, the Winterhawks knocked off the hometown Rockets 5-3 Friday at Prospera Place.
Taylor Leier scored twice for the winners as Portland ended Kelowna's home-ice winning streak at 23 games.
It was the Rockets's first defeat at home since Oct. 10, a 6-4 setback to the Spokane Chiefs.
The Winterhawks built up a 4-0 lead through two periods, before the Rockets made a game of it with three straight goals in the third period.
JT Barnett, Cody Fowlie and captain Colton Sissons tallied for Kelowna in the final frame to make it 4-3, before Brendan Leipsic sealed the game for Portland with an empty net goal at 19:24.
The Rockets had several quality scoring chances in the opening period but failed to capitalize, while the Winterhawks made the most of their opportunities to lead 2-0 and 4-0 by periods.
"That was the difference in the game," Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said. "When they had opportunities, the capitalized. We had some really good chances but were gripping the stick a little tight. (Mac) Carruth made some good saves and we couldn't score.
"A credit to the guys for being resilient," added Huska. "They fought back and gave themselves a chance to win."
Rockets forward Tyrell Goulbourne energized his teammates and the sellout crowd of 6,122 during a second-period fight when he flattened Portland forwards Joe Mahon with a solid right to the chin.
It was the first time since November when they fell twice in Tri-City that the Rockets have lost two games in a row. Kelowna dropped a 5-0 decision Wednesday in Spokane.
Kelowna (40-12-3-1) trails Portland (44-8-1-2) by seven points for first in the Western Conference's overall standings.
The Rockets and Winterhawks will meet again Saturday night at Prospera Place. Face is 7:05 p.m.