Over the last three games of the regular season, Connor Ingram’s goaltending gave the Kelowna Rockets fits.
That trend has continued into the playoffs, as the Kamloops Blazers’ stopper has been largely responsible for keeping his team on even ground with the defending WHL champs.
The Rockets and Blazers are tied up 2-2 in the best-of-seven first round series, with Game 5 set for tonight at Prospera Place.
Kelowna picked up a split of the two games in Kamloops this week, but managed just a pair of goals on 75 shots against the 19-year-old from Imperial, SK.
Ingram’s save percentage in the postseason is .942.
While he admits Ingram’s play has been a considerable obstacle for the Rockets, head coach Brad Ralph said there are other areas of his team’s game that also need to better.
“Ingram has been good, we knew he would be, but we’ve let him off the hook by not establishing a better presence in front of him and not making it more difficult for him,” Ralph said. “But we also need to be better defensively and be more physical…we’ve just got to get down to playing 60 minutes and not letting up.”
The Rockets’ goaltending, on the other hand, has been both hot and cold in the series.
On Tuesday in Game 3, Michael Herringer was solid, if not spectaluar, in a 40-save shutout.
A night later, in a 5-1 loss, Herringer was shaky early and was eventually pulled after yielding four goals on just 28 shots.
“We need more consistency from Mike, we need him to keep us in games early and give us a chance,” Ralph said. “There are a couple of goals I know he’d like to have back.
“But at the same time, the five guys in front of him need to be better,” he added. “Everybody needs to pick it up.”
And now with a best-of-three scenario facing his team, Ralph said it’s time for the Rockets to play the kind of hockey they’re capable of.
“We’re still a confident group, we’re excited to get back in front of our home crowd (Friday),” said Ralph. “We know what we can do, but we have to go out and earn it.
“We’ve put ourselves in this situation so, to a man, we need to be ready to go and do what it takes to get the win.”
Game 6 will be played Sunday night at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.
A seventh and deciding game, if necessary, would go Monday night at Prospera Place.