On a night when the Kelowna Rockets were challenged by one of the Western Hockey League’s hottest teams, a pair of rookies were more than happy to step up and answer the call.
Kole Lind scored twice and Jordan Borstmayer had his first WHL goal, as the Rockets cooled down the Seattle Thunderbirds 5-2 in WHL action Wednesday night at Prospera Place.
Lind and Borstmayer, teammates last season with the Saskatoon midget Contacts, accounted for their team’s first three goals in the Rockets fourth straight victory and ninth in the last 10 games.
It also brought an end to the Thunderbirds’ six-game winning streak.
Rockets coach Brad Ralph said the both rookies played an integral role in the game’s outcome.
“That was our fourth line tonight, I can’t say enough about those guys,” Ralph said. “That can be a difference maker against a big team.
“They did a great job, Kole Lind, he’s got a knack for the net. And it was good to see Borstmayer get rewarded for all his hard work here.”
A third Rockets rookie, defenceman Jonathan Smart, was also factor for the Rockets with two assists, including setting up Borstmayer’s first major junior goal in the second period.
Borstmayer’s teammates made certain he paid the price for his first marker, as Tyson Baillie and Rodney Southam smeared the young forward’s face with shaving cream during a post-game interview.
“It feels pretty good,” Borstmayer said of his goal, not of the shaving cream assault. “You try not to think about it but it’s always in the back of your mind. At the end of the day we won a big game against a good team and that matters most.”
Jackson Whistle was sharp in the Rockets net, particularly in the first period when he made 15 saves.
The Rockets, who had a 17-2 shot advantage in the second period, outshot the T’Birds 33-29 overall.
Cole Linkaer had assists on both of Lind’s goals, while Nick Merkley and Tomas Soustal added insurance goals in the third period.
Donovan Neuls and Nick Holowko scored for Seattle.
Despite playing what Ralph considered less than his team’s best hockey, the Rockets’ head coach was pleased both with the effort and final result.
“It’s great to beat a good team like that, a team of that calibre when we weren’t at our best,” Ralph said “The guys were working hard, there’s no doubt about it. You’ve gotta give Seattle credit.
“But again, we played hard enough. I was proud we beat a good hockey team.”
Forward Dillon Dube returned to the Rockets lineup Wednesday after missing five games with an eye injury, while Rourke Chartier, Lucas Johansen and Riley Stadel were all scratches due to injuries.
The Rockets (18-5-1-0) will visit the B.C. Division rival Victoria Royals for two games this weekend, Friday and Saturday at Save on Foods Centre.