The Kelowna Rockets are heading home with all four points from the weekend after a 5-1 victory Saturday night at CN Centre. Reid Gardiner and Kole Lind each had three points while Nick Merkley chimed in with two goals for the visitors while Jesse Gabrielle had the lone goal in response for the Cougars who are now 0-2 on their current six game home stand.
Two first period goals from Nick Merkley staked the Rockets to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. His first of the game came at 8:11 and then the Arizona Coyote’s first rounder added his second of the game via the power play at 18:01. Kelowna outshot the Cougars 13-6 in the opening period.Early in the second the Cougars came within an eyelash of making it a 2-1 game, but Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer dove to his left and somehow got the paddle of his stick on Nikita Popugaev’s shot from the left circle to keep his team ahead by two.
Jesse Gabrielle got the Cougars on the board moments later when he dashed down the left wing, raced wide on the Kelowna defender and tucked home his 25th of the season through the legs of Michael Herringer. It was Gabrielle’s 100th career goal in the WHL and it had the crowd of over 4300 jacked up!
89 seconds later though the Rockets restored their two goal cushion when Reid Gardiner knocked down a Cougar clearing attempt, skated into the slot and wired his first of two on the night past Cougars starter Ty Edmonds. Kelowna led 3-1 after 40 minutes and held a 22-17 lead in shots.
Prince George outshot the Rockets 11-8 in the final period but the Rockets would tack on two more. Kole Lind snuck his third goal of the weekend past Ty Edmonds on a backhand at 7:23 to make it 4-1, and then Reid Gardiner made it 5-1 on a power play at 11:28 to cement the 5-1 final.
Kelowna’s power play finished two-for-four while the Cougars went zero-for-three.
The Cougars loss coupled with the Blazers win in Spokane means that the Cougars hold a six point lead on the B.C. Division. Everett were also winners on Saturday meaning the Cougars lead in the Western Conference is now down to three points.
Now the Cougars will put their 36-16-3-0 record on the line Tuesday against the Vancouver Giants who are in town for a week-night double-header. The Cougars have yet to lose more than two games in a row all season, and they’ll look to continue that trend Tuesday against the G-Men.
-Prince George Cougars