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Rockets down the Cougars 5-1

A penalty-filled second period would end up costing the Cougars in their final regular season meeting with the Kelowna Rockets.

Wednesday night at Prospera Place the Cougars surrendered four unanswered goals in the second period in what would end up as a 5-1 loss. Calvin Thurkauf had two goals and an assist for the Rockets while goaltender Michael Herringer made 25 saves, 14 of which came in the first period. Radovan Bondra had the lone goal for the Cougars who took a season-high 11 minor penalties.

 The opening 20 minutes were a completely different story for the Cougars who dominated the Rockets in all areas. They outshot Kelowna 14-6 in the opening period and had at least three ‘Grade A’ chances to score. Rockets netminder Michael Herringer was the difference though as he turned aside everything fired his way. His tops saves included a clear-cut breakaway stop on Jansen Harkins and a left pad save off of Jared Bethune off a rebound. Given that the Cougars were without Colby McAuley, Brad Morrison and Brendan Guhle, it was a promising start for the visitors.

Early in the second though the Rockets went to their second power play and began their offensive onslaught. Calvin Thurkauf parked himself in front of Cougars goaltender Ty Edmonds and deflected a Reid Gardiner shot over his left shoulder for his 31st of the season. Thurkauf’s goal was one of two power play goals in the period for Kelowna.

Just over four minutes later the Rockets added to their lead when Kyle Topping crashed the Cougars net and tipped home a pass from Rodney Southam at 9:53. Then a minute and 15 seconds later off a two-on-one rush, Rockets leading scorer Kole Lind connected with Calvin Thurkauf on his second of the night and 32nd of the season.

Nick Merkley’s 23rd of the season came at the 15:32 mark off a four-on-three power play to give the Rockets a 4-0 cushion. They outshot the Cougars 17-5 in the middle frame and held a 23-19 lead in the shots through two periods.

64 seconds into the third the Cougars solved Michael Herringer when Radovan Bondra ripped home his team-leading 30th of the season off the rush. Bondra’s goal was assisted by Jansen Harkins and Josh Curtis.

That’s as close as the Cougars would get though as penalties would again become a factor in the later stages of the game. With the Rockets up five-on-three Dillon Dube was able to slip his 13th of the season past Ty Edmonds to complete the Rockets 5-1 victory. They finished the game three-for-10 on the power play while the Cougars went scoreless in their two power play opportunities (both of which came in the first period).

The loss moves the Cougars record to 40-20-3-2 through 65 games. Heading into the weekend the Cougars now hold a three point lead on Kamloops and a four point lead on Kelowna for first in the B.C. Division. The Rockets do hold a game in hand.

Fortunately the Cougars still sit in the driver’s seat as they will play host to the Kamloops Blazers for back-to-back games this weekend at the CN Centre beginning Friday at 7 p.m.

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