Kelowna Rockets’ forward Tomas Soustal goes on the attack against Winterhawks defenseman Caleb Jones Friday in Game 1 of the WHL’s Western Conference semifinal at Prospera Place. -Image credit: Warren Henderson/Capital News

Rockets ground ‘Hawks in series opener

Kelowna scored three in span of 1:35 on way to victory Friday in Game 1 of the WHL playoff series

A three-goal outburst early in the first period boosted the Kelowna Rockets past the Portland Winterhawks Friday in the opening game of the Western Conference semifinal at Prospera Place.

Calvin Thurkauf, Kole Lind and Reid Gardiner scored in a 95-second span en route to a 4-2 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.

Dillon Dube extended the Rockets lead to 4-0 in the second period, before the Winterhawks pushed back with a pair of goals late in the third.

The Rockets dominated much of the first 40 minutes and finished the night with a 54-29 advantage in shots on goal.

While he was happy with the win, head coach Jason Smith wasn’t entirely enthralled how the Rockets performed over the final 20 minutes.

“Obviously the win is important,” Smith said. “I think we fell into a little bit of a trap the last five minutes of the second and in the third where we didn’t protect the puck and didn’t get into the battle, and got into a bit of track meet with them and that’s not the type of game we want to play.

“The effort was good,” Smith added, “just the execution with the puck, we were maybe looking a little bit too much for offense, forcing the game rather than staying with it the way we did the first 35 minutes.”

Thurkauf, who netted his first of the playoffs to open the scoring, had a goal and two assists.

Lind and Gardiner, with his team leading sixth of the post season, each had a goal and an assist for the Rockets who won for the 14th time in 17 games dating back to the regular season.

Dube’s goal, late in the second period, was his fifth of the playoffs.

Cole Kehler stopped 50 shots for the Winterhawks, including 21 in the second period, while Michael Herringer turned aside 27 for his fifth victory of the postseason.

Game 2 goes Saturday at Prospera Place, with a 7:05 p.m. start.

Kelowna Rockets

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