By their head coach’s own admission, the Kelowna Rockets didn’t bring their best game on Wednesday night.
Still, it was good enough for Jason Smith’s club to push its Western Hockey League home-ice winning-streak to 13 games.
Conner Bruggen-Cate scored twice, including the game winner at 4:36 of the third period, to lead the Rockets past the Tri-City Americans 5-4 at Prospera Place.
Carsen Twarynski, with his team-leading 25th and 26th goals of the season, also scored a pair and added an assist as the Rockets (24-11-2-1) won their sixth straight game to solidify their lead atop the Western Conference.
“It’s obviously great to win,” said Jason Smith. “We didn’t play our best game tonight but we did enough to win the game.
“I think we got saves when we needed them and we capitalized on a few opportunities when mistakes were made on them and we put it in the net which was great.”
The Rockets led 3-2 after two periods, but the game took an abrupt a turn when Tri-City scored twice in early in the third period, including a shorthanded goal by Parker AuCoin to put the Ams on top.
But the lead was short-lived as Nolan Foote connected for the Rockets at 3:42, followed just 54 seconds later by Bruggen-Cate’s game winner on a set up from Kole Lind.
“That’s junior hockey right there, the game swings and changes in a hurry,” said Smith. “We obviously gave up a shorthanded goal to start the period which was a momentum builder for them, but we righted the ship and got things going back the right way. It’s a credit the guys and the maturity and the growth in our group that we can handle a little turmoil and move forward.”
James Porter, the WHL and CHL goaltender of the week, made 24 saves in the Rockets’ net.
Beck Warm and Patrick Dea split the goaltending chores in the Americans’ goal and stopped 31 Kelowna shots.
The Rockets were once again without the services of Dillon Dube and Cal Foote, both of whom are with Team Canada at the world junior hockey championship in Buffalo.
On Thursday, the Canadians will play the Czech Republic in the semifinal.
The Rockets are back home Friday night when they host the Seattle Thunderbirds. Face off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m
On Sunday, Kelowna travels to Calgary take on the Hitmen.
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