Thanks in large part to the Kelowna Rockets, the Kamloops Blazers’ lead in the B.C. Division is no longer one of comfort.
The Rockets scored a convincing 7-3 victory over the Blazers Thursday at Prospera Place to move to within four points of Kamloops for top spot.
Zach Franko scored two goals and added three assists as Kelowna posted its 13th consecutive WHL victory on home ice, and 17th win in the last 21 games.
At the beginning of November, the Rockets (24-10-1-1) trailed the Blazers (25-10-2-2) by 18 points. Kelowna holds four games in hand.
Ryan Olsen added two goals and two assists, JT Barnett scored twice and Myles Bell added his team-leading 21st of the season as the Rockets looked every bit as dominant as the team that headed into the Christmas break.
“I’m very pleased,” Rockets head coach Ryan Huska told AM 1150 following the game. “When I left my house today, I wasn’t sure what kind of game we were going to have, but this group continues to surprise me. They enjoy winning, they enjoy coming to the rink, and they come prepared to play. It was fun to watch.”
The Rockets blew open the game with a five-goal second period, including scoring twice on 5-on-3 power plays.
“That’s the best our 5-on-3 has looked in years,” Huska said.
On the subject of Franko’s performance, Huska said the best may yet be to come.
“We’re just seeing the tip of what he can do. He has the ability to score, he has the ability to make plays to open men. He has a skill set that not too many guys have. Hopefully it’s sign of what we’re going to see from Zach.”
Goaltender Jackson Whistle stopped 19 shots in the Kelowna net to push his record to 8-2.
Jake Morrissey, 15, served as the backup to Whistle as Jordon Cooke continues to recover from injury.
Veteran defenceman MacKenzie Johnston returned to the Kelowna lineup after missing 20 games with a knee injury, played 20 minutes, registered one assist and posted a +3 rating.
Rockets captain Colton Sissons sat out his ninth straight game with an upper body injury.
The Rockets played in front of their first sellout of the season at Prospera Place as announced attendance was 6,257.
The Rockets will visit the Vancouver Giants on Friday night.