WHL Playoffs: Rockets knock down 'Birds in series opener, 6-2

Kelowna Rockets centre Rourke Chartier tries to knock a rebound past Seattle Thunderbirds
Kelowna Rockets centre Rourke Chartier tries to knock a rebound past Seattle Thunderbirds' goaltender Taran Kozun in WHL playoff action Thursday at Prospera Place.
— image credit: Warren Henderson/Capital News

While no game is ever the definition of perfection, Ryan Huska couldn't have asked for a much better effort from his squad in the opener of the WHL Western Conference semifinal.

The Kelowna Rockets grounded the Seattle Thunderbirds 6-2 Thursday night at Prospera Place to take Game 1 of the best-of-seven playoff series in convincing fashion.

"I liked our game tonight, I thought we were pretty solid throughout our lineup," Huska said. "We didn't give them a whole lot of chances and I thought we played a smart game. We didn't get ourselves into much trouble which was something that was real positive."

Defenceman Damon Severson led the Rockets' attack with four points, with each of his two goals coming at opportune times. The first, on the power play, found the mark behind T'Birds netminder Taran Kozun with just 18 seconds remaining in the opening period and stood up as the game winner. The second, at 24 seconds of the third, made it a 6-2 game and put Seattle away for good.

"It was one of those nights where I was feeling it," said Severson, 19. "A couple of lucky goals, and I have to thank my teammates for good screens in front."

Huska lauded Severson's effort and his willingness to play a basic yet effective style.

"Damon was real good and he was simple," Huska said. "I think that's what made him so effective. Sometimes less is more, you don't have to complicate things. Tonight was a night where Damon didn't complicate things and he ended up with four points. It was nice to see him give us that game, it was important for our group."

The Rockets started quickly, as Cole Linkaker followed up on a Tyrell Goulborne breakaway chance to beat Kozun for his second of the playoffs at 2:16 of the first.

Just over two minutes later, Rourke Chartier connected on the power play and the Rockets were on their way. Kelowna finished the night 3-for-6 with the man advantage.

Captain Madison Bowey and Ryan Olsen also scored for the Rockets, while Matthew Barzal and Alexander Delnov tallied for Seattle.

A bigger, more physical team than Kelowna's first round opponents, the Tri-City Americans, the Thunderbirds tried to impose their will on the Rockets.

Huska liked the way his team answered the challenge.

"I thought we responded well," Huska said. "We had some pushback, we had some good hits on our own and we went 3-for-6 on the power play, and that's something that's important in this series, we have to make sure it's a threat when it's on the ice."

The Rockets and Thunderbirds will meet for Game 2 of the series Saturday, 7:05 p.m., at Prospera Place.



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