Jackson Whistle (right) and the Kelowna Rockets will try to eliminate Brandon Magee and the Victoria Royals from the WHL playoffs when the teams meet in Game 5 Friday at Prospera Place.

Rockets a win away from conference final

Kelowna loses Wednesday in Victoria, but still holds 3-1 lead heading home for Game 5 Friday

After seven straight playoff wins, it just might be the law of averages caught up with the Kelowna Rockets.

But even though Wednesday’s loss prevented them from a sweep of the Victoria Royals, the Rockets are still very much in the driver’s seat in their second-round WHL playoff series.

Kelowna returns home to its fans Friday for Game 5 with a 3-1 lead, and a chance to move on to the Western Conference final for the second year in a row.

“We have to make sure we bring our A game because we certainly don’t want to go back to Victoria,” Rockets’ head coach Lambert said.

“It’s a small bump in the road, certainly nothing to panic about. Sure it would have been nice to sweep, but in a hockey season you’re not going to win 80 games in a row. We’ve been a team that’s rebounded well all year, so if we can do that and win (Friday) obviously we’ll be in good shape.”

The Rockets had built up a 3-0 series lead before the Royals averted elimination with a 5-4 overtime victory on Wednesday at Save on Foods Memorial Centre.

Kelowna led 4-2 midway in the third period before a pair of quick goals turned the tide in Victoria’s favour.

While not being as sharp as usual on the power play (0-for-8), Lambert wasn’t unhappy with his team’s overall effort.

“To be honest, I thought we didn’t give them a whole lot,” he said. “We had a lot of opportunities to put them away, but didn’t. Until that third period, I thought we were in a good position. But then they score two goals in 24 seconds and that’s the difference. It’s playoff hockey…it happens.”

On the upside, the Rockets still have three chances to put the Royals away.

Understandably, Lambert hopes the Rockets can get the job done on their next try on Friday night in front of what should be a vocal and supportive hometown audience.

“It should be a lot of fun,” he said. “Victoria’s a good team that’s making us work for things. The fans will be behind us, so the guys should be excited to play.”

Defenceman Josh Morrissey and forward Justin Kirkland both sat out Wednesday’s game for the Rockets with lower body injuries and remain day-to-day.

A sixth game in the series, if needed, would be played Sunday in Victoria.

Game 7, if necessary, would be back in Kelowna next Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Leon Draisaitl and Tyson Baillie continue to lead the Rockets’ offensive attack in the post-season.

Draisaitl has three goals and 12 points, while Baillie has six goals and five assists in eight games.

Nick Merkley (2-8-10), Rourke Chartier (6-3-9) and Madison Bowey (4-5-9) are also averaging better than a point per game.

 

 

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