In what’s been a recurring theme this season, penalties were the Kelowna Rockets’ undoing on Friday night.
Rudolfs Balcers’ second goal of the game on the power play sent the Kamloops Blazers to a 3-2 victory over the hometown Rockets in a key B.C. Division matchup at Prospera Place.
The Rockets, who lead the Western Hockey League in penalty minutes (798), gave the Blazers nine power play opportunities, the last of which produced the decisive goal from Balcers at 12:23 of the third period.
Five of Kelowna’s infractions were of the unforced variety—three for delay of game and a pair of too-many-men on the ice penalties.
“It’s disappointing,” said Rockets head coach Smith. “It’s something to learn from, I think the changing penalties is either an lack of effort coming to the bench or in too much of a hurry to get on the ice.
“Flipping it over the glass is about having some poise,” he added. “It’s a lesson learned and hopefully we can take from that and be better from here on out.”
The win was the Blazers’ fifth over the Rockets in eight meetings this season and moved Kamloops (30-17-1-2) five points ahead of Kelowna (27-18-4-0) for second spot in the B.C. Division.
“It makes the work a lot harder to get back close to them,” Smith said of the missed opportunity to pull within one point of Kamloops. “We gotta start by doing it right and doing it tomorrow night. It’s a huge game (against Portland) and we gotta come prepared to play.”
Lucas Johansen and Calvin Thurkauf scored for the Rockets, while Nick Merkley had a pair of assists.
Lane Bauer also scored for Kamloops, his 27th of he season, just 1:26 into the first period.
Connor Ingram made 30 saves in the Blazers’ net, while Michael Herringer stopped 20 shots for Kelowna, including one on a clear-cut breakaway by Deven Sideroff in the third period.
The Rockets return to action Saturday when they host the Portland Winterhawks. Face-off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.
Kelowna will be without defenceman Cal Foote and forward Kole Lind who will be on their way to Quebec City for Monday night’s CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.