When the Kelowna Rockets needed a boost, their captain didn’t hesitate to step up.
Rodney Southam scored his first career WHL hat-trick, and Michael Herringer stopped 41 shots as the Rockets downed the Kamloops Blazers 4-0 Friday to take Game 5 of their best-of-seven opening round playoff series.
The Rockets, who rebounded from a 5-1 defeat two nights earlier in Kamloops, now lead the series three games to two.
Southam said the Rockets responded well after a disappointing result in Game 4.
“We knew that wasn’t good enough, especially for playoff hockey,” Southam said. “We had to take it upon ourselves, and it was 20-man (effort), pushing as hard as we can, taking it shift-by-shift, period by period, just playing in the moment.”
“There’s a reason he’s wearing the ‘C’,” Rockets head coach Brad Ralph said of his 19-year-old captain. “He’s our hardest worker and I thought it was great to see him rewarded for all the penalty kills that he’s been killing as of late.”
Like the rest of the Rockets, Herringer bounced back with a 42-save effort for his second shutout of the series.
Herringer was pulled in Game 4 after giving up four goals on 28 shots.
“Mike was good, a calming presence, he handled the rebounds well,” Ralph said. “It was a team effort tonight, but Herri was good. He had a lot more work than we’d like but it was a good bounce back for him.”
The Rockets also halted their frustrations on the power play, scoring twice on six chances.
In the first four games of the series, Kelowna went 0-for-17 with the man advantage.
“I think it was the difference in tonight’s game, it got us off to a good start,” Ralph said of his team’s power play. “We’ve had our chances, but I thought we were a little more tenacious around the net. We had a lot of good things going on with the power play and we need that consistency right now.”
Southam opened the scoring in the first period with a power play goal, then pushed the Rockets to a two-goal lead at 2:35 of the second with his second of the game against Connor Ingram.
Rourke Chartier redirected a Lucas Johansen shot for another power play goal just past the seven minute mark, before Southam completed his hat-trick four minutes later on a setup from Tomas Soustal.
Game 6 is set for Saturday night in Kamloops.
Game 7, if necessary, will be played Monday night at Prospera Place.