Brad Ralph didn’t have much good to say about his team’s start on Friday night.
Their finish, on the other hand, drew a vastly different assessment from the Kelowna Rockets’ head coach.
The Rockets overcame a spate of early penalties and a 4-1 second period deficit to edge the Vancouver Giants 6-5 in WHL action at Prospera Place.
Rourke Chartier paced the Rockets with two goals, including the game winner at 14:29 of the final frame, as Kelowna slipped past Vancouver in the first of a home-and-home set between the B.C. Division rivals.
“It wasn’t right from the start,” said Ralph. “We were a little undisciplined and it was tough to grind it out when you’re expending a lot of energy on the penalty kill and that’s not going well, we were chasing our tail all night long.
“We had some great efforts,” he added, “no doubt about it, the guys stuck with it. Our top guys made some big plays to score some goals and we were fortunate to win that game.”
The Giants jumped on the Rockets for a pair early power play goals. With Joe Gatenby in the box with a double minor for high-sticking, Chase Lang scored on both opportunities for a 2-0 Vancouver lead just 2:24 into the game.
Cole Linaker got the Rockets on the board 23 seconds later with his 16th of the season, but Lang answered that with his third power play marker of the period with 54 seconds left to make it 3-1.
After a Trevor Cox goal less than seven minutes into the second made it 4-1 Giants, Chartier notched his 18th of the season on a power play at 14:50 to draw the Rockets to within two.
Then just with 1:36 left in the period, Tomas Soustal squeezed a shot past Ryan Kubic for his 14th to make it 4-3 after 40.
Thomas Foster restored Vancouver’s two-goal lead with the Giants’ fourth power play marker of the night at 3:37.
The Rockets then rallied with goals by Joe Gatenby and Tyson Baillie just 30 seconds apart—at 4:19 and 4:49—setting the stage for Chartier’s game winner, a quick shot that beat Kubic to the glove side.
“Obviously not the game we want to play, we were in the box quite a bit, it’s tough to get momentum and get everyone involved,” said Chartier, who has 19 goals on the season. “At the same time, that’s a good sign for our team to be able to come back like that.
“The guys did a good job, not one quit and we had that mindset in the back of our heads, we were going to win the whole time. The guys did a good job of keeping at it.”
Michael Herringer picked up the win in net as the Rockets outshot the Giants 41-33.
The Rockets were without 18-year-old defenceman Gordie Ballhorn. The Westaskiwin, AB native was injured in Tuesday’s win over Red Deer and is sidelined on a week-to-week basis with an upper body injury.
The Rockets (41-15-3-0) will take on the Giants (21-31-5-2) on Saturday night in Vancouver.