The wear and tear of a long Western Hockey League season caught up with the Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday night.
With a short bench and four key players sidelined, the Victoria Royals skated away with a 6-3 victory at Prospera Place.
Royals’ netminder Coleman Vollrath stopped 44 shots and Tyler Soy netted a hat-trick in the eighth and final meeting of the season between the B.C. Division rivals.
Team goal-scoring leader Rourke Chartier, defenceman Josh Morrissey, and forwards Justin Kirkland and Gage Quinney all sat for the Rockets out due to injury.
To further exacerbate the problem, 21-year-old forward and recent NHL-signee Tyrell Goulbourne suffered a lower body injury in the second period and didn’t return. There was no word on how much time, if any, he will miss.
Rockets head coach Dan Lambert said a depleted lineup didn’t help his team’s cause.
“I think it had it a significant role, I guess,” Lambert said. “But I don’t know that that is going to change anytime soon, so we have to fight our way through this.
“I thought we looked a little tired,” Lambert added. “We had a lot of shots, a lot from the outside, and they certainly took advantage of their opportunities. They went 2-for-2 on the power play and in the end that was one of the differences for sure.”
Nick Merkley paced the Kelowna offence with two goals, his 19th and 20th of the season.
With the end of the regular season drawing near, Merkley said the Rockets may have let their foot off the gas just a little against the Royals.
“I don’t think we want it to, but for sure some motivation is lacking,” said Merkley. “But obviously you want to finish off strong and we want to continue that into the next five games.”
The Rockets (50-12-4-1) will take on the B.C. rival Kamloops Blazers in a home-and-home set this weekend. The teams will meet Friday at the Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops, then again Saturday night at Prospera Place.