A five-goal second period wasn’t enough for the Kelowna Rockets who blew a four-goal lead in the third period to the Calgary Hitmen in a 6-5 overtime loss on Monday.
There were positives from the game, but a loss like this stings a bit more for the Rockets as a point is left on the table as Kelowna clings to a B.C division wild card spot.
“We did a lot of good things today against a good hockey team,” said Kelowna coach Adam Foote.
“They turned the heat on in the third an played a playoff style and we needed to hold that lead for sure. It’s things we have to learn from. We have to stick together here and try to look at all the good things we did.”
Kelowna captain Nolan Foote made a brief return to the line-up Monday afternoon. Foote was returning from injury that has held him out since Jan. 10 and the Hitmen gave Foote a warm welcome as they tried to body him almost every time he was on the ice.
After only a few shifts in the first period, Rockets medical staff made the decision to hold Foote out the remainder of the game after not feeling 100 per cent.
“He was sore, all along it was if he felt sore to step out and he did,” said general manager Bruce Hamilton post-game.
Though Foote didn’t return to the ice for the last two periods, having the veteran captain back was a big boost for the team.
“It (felt good) for sure,” said Rockets defenceman Jake Lee.
“It’s been a huge deficit for our team lately so it was nice to have him in for a bit.”
Lee was a bright spot for the Rockets, notching the game’s Third Star with two assists and solid defensive play throughout.
Kelowna came to life in the second period after a four-minute penalty kill early into the frame. Rockets defenceman Connor McDonald was sprung from the penalty box on a partial breakaway where a lucky bounce on a centering pass found its way past Hitmen goalie Brayden Peters.
The Rockets would go on to score four more goals in just 13 shots in the period with Matthew Wedman, Alex Swetlikoff, Ethan Ernst and Dillon Hamaliuk netting goals for Kelowna to go up 5-1 after two periods.
Wedman, who had a goal and an assist Monday night, said the team can’t let up after only one good period.
“As we’re going down into the stretch of playoffs, we need to learn how to close games,” he said.
“I thought we fell apart in the third there and that can’t happen in the playoffs. We just weren’t winning battles, off our game plan. Simple as that.”
The Hitmen turned on the pressure in the third period as Vancouver Canucks prospects Carson Focht and Jett Woo led Calgary to a massive comeback to tie the game at five and force overtime.
Rockets goalie Roman Basran was peppered with 16 shots in the final period as the Hitmen surged back with four third period goals. In overtime, Calgary sneaked one past Basran halfway through to complete the comeback win.
The Rockets next hit the road for a four-game road-trip starting Feb. 21 in Victoria for a two-game stretch against the Royals before a back-to-back set against the Prince George Cougars next week.
Kelowna will return to home ice Feb. 28 when they host the Everett Silvertips.
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