There was considerably more drama and tension than the Okanagan Rockets would have preferred.
But when all was said and done, the Rockets reached their most immediate goal by booking a spot in the BCMML championship final for the second straight year.
Jake Kryski’s goal on a penalty shot with less than five minutes to play in the third period Sunday at CNC pushed Okanagan past the Valley West Hawks 7-6 in the third and deciding game of the best-of-three semifinal series.
The Rockets came from behind to win the opener 5-4 on Friday, before the Hawks responded with a convincing 6-3 win on Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday, rookie Tyson Jost delivered a hat-trick for the Rockets who held 4-0 and 6-3 leads before Valley West rallied back to make a game of it.
While the way in which his team prevailed wasn’t ideal, Rockets coach Matt O’Rourke is happy his team survived its first big playoff test.
“We had a mental collapse on Saturday, so we’re happy with the way the guys bounced back,” O’Rourke said. “It wasn’t the score we wanted, but we got the win and we’re moving on. Not for one moment did we think this was going to be an easy series. It was a great experience to come through some tight games, a team-building experience.”
The series win sets up a much-anticipated rematch against the Vancouver Northwest in the BCMML final next weekend.
The Giants, who finished just one point ahead of the Rockets during the regular season, defeated the Rockets in overtime in the deciding game of last year’s final.
“We always hoped it would be a Rockets-Giants final and that’s what we’ve got,” O’Rourke said. “That’s a phenomenal group they have over there, and we like our team, too. It could be the best series in the history of the BCMML.”
The Rockets and Giants will meet in the best-of-three league final this coming weekend in Burnaby. Game 1 goes Friday night, with Game 2 on Saturday and, a third game, if necessary on Sunday afternoon.