Rockets rally past Portland

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The Kelowna Rockets overcame a 3-0 deficit to shade the Portland Winterhawks 5-4 in a thrilling opening game of the WHL Western Conference final before a towel-waving, sellout crowd of 6,218 fans Friday night at Prospera Place.

Tyson Baillie scored a goal and added two assists for the Rockets, who got better as the game went on, including a third period that saw Kelowna outshoot the Winterhawks 14-4 and score twice.

“Our team has had belief all year,” said Rockets’ head coach Ryan Huska on the AM 1150 post-game show. “I thought it was important that we continued to have patience. Our older players did a good job of staying positive tonight and guys found a way to chip away and score some timely goals.”

After falling behind 3-0 midway through the first period, Baillie opened the scoring on a quick wrist shot, before captain Madison Bowey made it 3-2 with a short-handed marker, with under a minute to play in the first period. The team’s exchanged goals in the second as Portland jumped ahead 4-2 before Rourke Chartier cut the lead to 4-3.

The Rockets took over in the third, scoring twice. Justin Kirkland equalized with a tip-in of a Bowey shot, setting the stage for Jesse Lees to score the winner, banging home a rebound six minutes into the third.

Huska gave props to the crowd for its energy.

“That was the best crowd since ‘09 probably,” he said. “Even when we were down, they had a lot to do with us getting back into the game. They were very loud which was nice.”

Vernon’s Curtis Lazar scored 32 seconds after the opening face-off and had one assist for first star as the Edmonton Oil Kings iced the Medicine Hat Tigers 8-3 in the Eastern final series opener. Vernon’s Cole Sanford had one assist for the Tigers.


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