The Kelowna Rockets had a full week to mull over a disappointing 5-2 home-ice to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
The Western Hockey League’s No. 1 team turned that pent-up anxiety into two points on Friday night, downing the U.S. Division-leading Everett Silvertiips 5-3 in the first of two weekend meetings between the teams.
Tyson Baillie scored twice and centre Rourke Chartier tallied his league-leading 39th goal of the season, as the Rockets halted the Silvertips’ six-game winning streak.
With Kelowna’s newest acquisitions—Leon Draisaitl and Josh Morrissey among them—still getting familiar with their new surroundings, the Rockets coaching staff spent the week fine-tuning the club’s on- and off-ice chemistry.
Based on the Rockets’ effort Friday, particularly from a physical standpoint, head coach Dan Lambert said it’s clear his team responded well.
“I liked the way we won tonight,” said Lambert. “Of course there’s areas where you want to clean up and do a few more things, but it’s the way we won. We showed we were willing to pay a price to win a hockey game, and certainly that was a challenge that was put in front of them.”
“They’re not easy to play against, they play very structured,” Lambert said of Everett. “I thought we battled hard, we blocked shots, we did a lot of the little things that we haven’t done lately, and it was a character win.”
Tyrell Goulbourne and Cole Linaker, with an empty netter, also scored for Kelowna, while Draisaitl added three assists. Jackson Whistle stopped 28 shots in the Kelowna goal for his Western Conference best 27th win.
The Rockets (35-8-3-0) and Silvertips (30-13-3-1) will meet again Saturday night at Prospera Place in a 7 p.m. face off.
Baillie, who is second on the Rockets with 29 goals, looks forward to the challenge.
“We know what kind of game it’s going to be, it’s going to be another fast-paced game, so we’re excited,” Baillie said