The B.C. Division-rival Kamloops Blazers brought the Kelowna Rockets back to earth on Tuesday night.
Devin Sideroff scored twice and captain Colin Shirley had three assists to lead the Blazers to a 5-1 victory at Prospera Place, ending the Rockets’ six-game Western Hockey League winning streak.
Based on his team’s effort, Rockets’ head coach Jason Smith said the end result wasn’t a big surprise.
“We pretty much got what we deserved,” said Smith. “We took penalties, we didn’t compete hard enough, and we didn’t play the structural game we needed to play.
“They were the better team, they worked harder and they worked smarter,” he said of the Blazers.
The Blazers, who jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, were a step ahead of the Rockets for much of the night, and outshot Kelowna 39-21.
Nick Merkley scored the lone goal for Kelowna (9-8-0) on a late first-period power play, but that was all the Rockets could muster with the man advantage.
The Rockets failed to scored on a pair of 5-on-3 power play chances and finished the night 1-for-7.
“Most of that was refusing to shoot the puck,” Smith said of his team’s lack of success with the extra man. “I think we had opportunities where we could shoot the puck and create a second, third and fourth chance off a rebound where wanted to make one more pass, then the lane was gone, we were under pressure and didn’t get the puck to the net.”
Merkley said the Rockets failed to match the Blazers’ intensity and suffered the consequences because of it.
“Obviously it’s a rival game and we want to win those,” Merkley said. “I just thought we needed more emotion, I mean you gotta get up for those games and obviously they did.
“Definitely next time we’re going to bring a lot more to the plate.”
Merkley, who has scored his first three goals of the season in the last three games, now has eight points in 12 games since returning from off-season knee surgery and the camp of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.
The 19-year-old Calgary native said he’s growing more comfortable with each outing.
“I’ve kind of settled in with my linemates, (Thurkuaf) has been playing great, he’s creating a lot of opportunities for us, and then just getting to the net,” Merkley said. “Then obviously with my injury it’s just kind of settling back in and getting used to the pace again.”
Connor Ingram stopped 20 shots in the Blazers’ net, while Michael Herringer made 34 saves for Kelowna.
The Rockets return to action Friday night in Langley against the Vancouver Giants. The Medicine Hat Tigers will visit Prospera Place on Saturday. Face off is 7:05 p.m.