The Rockets return to home ice with a 2-1 revenge win over the Kamloops Blazers. The Rockets suffered a heartbreaker Friday after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Blazers. At just over 6000 in attendance, it was the largest turnout of the season at Prospera Place. The two rival teams were showing their hostilities on Saturday night with chirping, hitting, and an almost full line fight right at the buzzer.
Head coach Adam Foote says they expected a rough game style from the Rockets’ biggest rival.
“We learn how to play and not go away when it’s a chippy style of hockey, and we learned to play, in what I call the muck,” said Foote. “Our (first) goal gave us (energy), and I think our players are really starting to believe that they can put a good show on for this community, and when the fans come out and support us, and when you hear that cheer, it gives you a huge lift.”
The first period started out with tempers flaring as the two rivals were continuing the battle from Friday night when the Rockets gave up a late tying goal to the Blazers which led to a Rockets overtime loss. Persistent pushing and shoving after the whistle lead to some hard hits delivered by both teams and a solid fight between Rockets’ Dalton Galley and Blazers’ Jeff Faith that seemed to energize the Rockets’ bench.
“I gotta do what I have to do, right? They hit one of our top guys and they’d been running us all game, and something needed to be done,” said Gally. “I’m never gonna back down from anyone, and I’m more than willing to do that for my team.”
Power plays and scoring chances would be divvied up by both teams throughout, but the first period would end 0-0.
Hits and chirps would continue to be the trend throughout the second period as shots by both teams were limited. Rockets goalie Roman Basran and Blazers’ goalie Dylan Ferguson were standing tall against pressing attacks but it was Basran who cracked first with the Blazers’ Luke Zazula sneaking one past Basran on the wrap-around to give the Blazers a 1-0 lead. The Blazers locked down the neutral zone for most of the period, but the Rockets would answer back and tie the game with Nolan Foote burying his 19th of the season after a solid forecheck from linemates Leif Mattson, and new-comer Alex Swetlikoff, who was playing his first home game as a Rocket after being picked up from the BCHL.
“I just try to get in front of the net, and use my big body as a screen. I’m getting more comfortable here and I’ll get better as I gel with the guys and continue to play more,”said Swetlikoff who grew up cheering for the Rockets. “It’s just an honour to throw on the jersey.”
Both teams scored, but the second period would end as the first did, at a tense tie game.
As the intensity of the game would grow stronger, both the Rockets and the Blazers were continuing the hits and giving the game a serious playoff vibe. Both teams were playing with pace and possession, and when the Rockets’ Kyle Topping put the go ahead goal past Ferguson to make it 2-1, the 6000 fans at Prospera Place went off with a playoff game vibe. The Blazers, having been in the exact same position Friday night: down 2-1 with time winding down, would push back. But even with the goalie pulled, the Rockets would hold on and defeat their biggest rivals 2-1, and the losing Blazers would skate off to the sound of boos from the 6000 fans, cementing the rivalry and confirming that playoff game vibe.
With the win the Rockets will move back up to second in the B.C division as the Victoria Royals lost Saturday. Rockets improve to 17-17-3.
The Rockets will return to home ice Jan. 6 with a chance to improve to a winning record for the first time this season, when they host the Prince George Cougars.
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