Kelowna Rockets forward Calvin Thurkauf battles Victoria's Regan Nagy in WHL action Wednesday night at Prospera Place.

Royals ground Rockets to clinch Western Conference title

Victoria sews up B.C. Division with win over Kelowna at Prospera Place

The Victoria Royals are on a roll heading into the Western Hockey League playoffs.

Not so much for the Kelowna Rockets.

The Royals ran their season-high winning streak to 11 games, downing the Rockets 7-4 in WHL action on Wednesday night at Prospera Place.

In the process, Victoria (48-16-3-3) locked up both the Western Conference and B.C. Division regular season titles and home-ice advantage for at least the first three rounds of the postseason.

The Rockets (46-20-4-0), who have dropped five of their last seven games, will finish in second spot in both the conference and division.

The power play was effective on both sides of the ice, with the Rockets and Royals each scoring four times with the man advantage

But the difference came at even strength where the Royals outscored Kelowna 3-0.

Rockets’ head coach Brad Ralph said a lack of discipline and sloppy play in its own end ultimately cost his team.

“Penalties and our D-zone coverage got the better of us tonight,” said Ralph, whose team fell behind 3-0 in the first period. “We’ve got to stay more disciplined and defensively we’ve got to play a tighter hockey game, especially against a group like that.

“It takes a full 60 minutes and I think we were playing extremely hard, we were playing a desperate hockey game, but we were compounding mistakes and it wasn’t pretty in our zone.”

The Royals jumped on the Rockets for three goals in the game’s opening 16 minutes, including power play markers from Alex Forsberg and Jack Walker.

The Rockets answered with a pair of power play goals of their own early in the second period with the Royals’ Ty Westgard serving four minutes for high sticking. Dillon Dube connected for his 25th at 5:15, followed by Calvin Thurkauf just 16 seconds later to make it a 3-2 game.

But the rally was cut short as the Royals outscored Kelowna 3-1 over the final 14 minutes of the frame to make it 6-3 after 40 minutes.

The Royals and Rockets then traded third-period goals, as Victoria won for the fifth time in eight regular season meeting between the teams.

Rockets’ centre Rourke Chartier made it clear he’d like another crack at Victoria in the third round of the postseason.

“We’re hoping we seem them in the playoffs,” said Chartier, who had three assists for the Rockets. “We’ll be ready for them then.”

As for settling for second best in the Western Conference, Chartier doesn’t expect it to have any bearing on the Rockets’ playoff fortunes.

“It would have been nice to have home ice for the whole playoffs, but last year we didn’t finish first in our league and we had to win a series on the road, so end of the day it isn’t that big of a deal,” he said. “Playoffs are a different monster and we’ll be ready.”

Kelowna will face the third-place finisher in the BC Division—Kamloops or Prince George—in opening round of the playoffs, beginning Friday, March 25 at Prospera Place.

The Blazers lead the Cougars by four points as the teams prepare to go head-to-head twice to close out the season this weekend.

The Rockets will cap off the regular season with a home-and-home set this weekend against the Vancouver Giants—Friday at Pacific Coliseum and Saturday at Prospera Place in Kelowna.

 

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