Two rounds into the 2017 postseason, the two veteran forwards continue to pay dividends for the Western Hockey League club.
The sharpshooting Gardiner, 21, who the Rockets acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders in January, has met all expectations since arriving from Scranton Wilkes-Barre of the American Hockey League.
In 28 regular season games, the Humboldt, SK native had 18 goals and 37 points, which included a 15-game point scoring streak.
Through eight playoff games, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospect was leading the Rockets with six goals and 10 points.
In landing Gardiner, the Rockets had to give up a first-round WHL bantam draft pick along with a conditional fifth rounder, but the returns have been abundant.
“Reid has come to the fore like we expected,” said Rockets’ assistant GM Lorne Frey. “We knew he was going to score and he’s done exactly that. He’s a skilled player who has fit in very well with our group.”
Playing on Kelowna’s top line, Gardiner was quick to find chemistry along with Nick Merkley and Calvin Thurkauf.
As for his decision to return to major junior for one last run at a WHL title, Gardiner is enjoying the ride.
“I want to take everything in and soak it up, I’ve never been this far in the playoffs,” said Gardiner, who scored 43 goals last season in Prince Albert. “I’m one of the older guys, I want to really enjoy this, but at the same time I want to give it everything I have and not have any regrets.
“This is a great place to play and I wanted to come back to a team that wanted to win,” he added. “I’m happy with my decision and hopefully we can finish this off the right way.”
Acquired from the Calgary Hitmen for forward Jake Kryski, Twarynski was brought in to provide a blend of energy, physicality and scoring and, like Gardiner, has met his new club’s expectations.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Calgary native had 22 points in 28 regular season games, then added four points in the Rockets first eight postseason games, while pushing his overall play to another level.
While the trade to Kelowna in January marked an abrupt change in the 19-year-old foward’s life and career, Twarynski couldn’t have asked for a much more desirable situation.
“At the start it was a little different living away from home for the first time, but it’s been good for me, good to change things up,” said Twarynski, 19. “The guys welcomed me, I got used to it pretty quick, and it’s easier when you’re coming to such a good team.
“Now hopefully we can continue this run we’ve started.”
Frey said Twarynski has filled a valuable role for the Rockets.
“Once the playoffs started, he’s just elevated his game,” Frey said of Twarsynki, a third round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers. “We needed a bigger body up front, a good 200-foot player and he’s provided that for us.
“Both guys have helped us immensely.”
Games 3 and 4 of the Rockets’ best-of-seven series against the Winterhawks goes tonight and Wednesday in Portland. The Rockets lead the series two games to none. Game 5, if needed, goes Friday in Kelowna.