The Kelowna Rockets punched their ticket to the postseason on Saturday night after beating the Vancouver Giants 5-3 at Prospera Place.
Rookie Andrew Cristall’s 18th goal of the season at the 12:30 mark of the second period ended up being the game-winner, clinching the playoff spot.
The Rockets are the fifth team in the Western Conference and sixth in the league to clinch their spot in the postseason, joining Kamloops, Everett, Portland, Seattle, and Edmonton. It is the first time the Rockets have been in the playoffs since the 2017-2018 season.
Colton Dach’s three assists in the game propelled him to 100 career points, while Rockets leading scorer Pavel Novak played in his 100th career game on Saturday night.
Kelowna beat Vancouver for a second-consecutive night on Sunday, 5-4 in Langley.
With 16 games left in the regular season, there’s still time for plenty of movement in the standings. Kelowna is sitting at 72 points. Seattle is just one point ahead at 73, while Portland is at 77.
Six of the remaining games are against B.C. Division-leading Kamloops, who sit at 80 points on the year.
In Rockets history, they have clinched the B.C. division title eight times and the Western Conference once. In 2003-04, they won the Memorial Cup.
For this season, the WHL has changed the playoff format. The first-place teams from each division in each conference will receive the top playoff seeding based on regular season points. The other six teams who finish third through eighth in the conference will be seeded based on regular season points. Teams that advance to the second round and conference finals (third round) will be reseeded based on regular season points. The WHL playoffs begin on Friday, April 22.
The Rockets start a series of four-straight games against Kamloops on Friday, March 11 at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops. Their next home game at Prospera Place is Saturday, March 12 against Kamloops.
All Rockets games are available to watch on WHL Live and CHL TV. To listen, go to 1550 on the AM dial.