By Matthew Abrey
The monkeys on the Rockets’ backs have followed them home from their recent road trip.
After dropping three straight on the road, the Rockets returned home but couldn’t turn it around, in a 4-2 loss to the Spokane Chiefs Saturday night at Prospera Place in Kelowna.
“If we don’t play good hockey down the stretch, it’s hard to have success in the playoffs,” said Rockets head coach Jason Smith. “When you go in and you’re struggling into the playoffs, it’s really hard to get your game back. We need to find a way to put the work in, and get back to competing and executing and playing as a team over these next six games.”
Kelowna had very few offensive chances in the first period, and found themselves down 1-0 after 20 minutes, after six-foot-five Chiefs centre Hudson Elynuik cut down the wing and slipped the puck under the right arm of goaltender James Porter just over seven minutes in.
Rockets winger Colum McGauley tried to breath some life into Prospera Place with a vicious scrap against Riley McKay that lasted well over a minute, but even that couldn’t spur the Rockets’ offence.
Kelowna wouldn’t find the back of the net until 19:27 of the second period, when Cal Foote managed to complete a tricky pass to Carsen Twarynski, who tied the game up at 1-1 with a laser that found the top shelf.
Down 2-1 in the third, Kole Lind, who signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, kept Kelowna in it, with the tying goal at 13:21 of the third. From a near-impossible sharp angle, Lind found a puck-sized hole between the goaltender’s left shoulder and the crossbar.
Overtime was looming, until the game’s eventual first-star, Hudson Elynuik, once again found the back of the net. Teammate Jake McGrew had toe-dragged around a pair of Rockets defencemen and fired one at James Porter who made the first save, but couldn’t stop the second shot from Elyniuk with 1:14 remaining in regulation time.
Elyniuk would complete the hat trick with an empty-netter at 19:44, and seal the Rockets’ fate.
“It’s just been the small details,” said captain Cal Foote when asked about his team’s fourth straight loss. “Just mental errors cost us, and I think we need to work at getting better at our blue line and their blue line with getting pucks deep, and just playing more of a simple game.”
The Rockets will look to right the ship on Wednesday, March 7th at 7pm, as they take on a division rival in the Vancouver Giants at Prospera Place.
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