Through one period the game was tied 1-1. Colby McAuley opened the scoring for the Cougars at 9:59 on a quick shot from the slot that snuck past Herringer’s blocker. Brad Morrison and Jansen Harkins assisted on McAuley’s 21st of the season.
Late in the first though the Rockets would tie the score on a power play when Tomas Soustal snuck into the slot, and redirected home a Nick Merkley pass from the left wing half boards. Shots were 11-7 Kelowna through one period.
Period two was a much different story as the Rockets struck three times unanswered. Devante Stephens gave his club the lead at 6:06 when he skated wide along the left wing, behind the Cougars net and wrapped the puck around Nick McBride and in for his 10th of the campaign.
James Hilsendager increased the Rockets lead to 3-1 at 11:53 when his low point shot found it’s way through traffic past McBride, and Nick Merkley made it 4-1 on a shorthanded breakaway two minutes and four seconds later to give the home team more than enough cushion.
Colby McAuley struck 41 seconds into the third period to put the Cougars back within striking distance. But the Rockets outshot the Cougars 20-9 in the final period Calvin Thurkauf iced the game with an empty-netter at 18:39 of the third to secure the Rockets 34th victory of the season, and third straight against the Cougars.
Special teams were a big factor Saturday as the Rockets finished one-for-four on the power play and five-for-five on their penalty kill. Merkley’s shorthanded marker was the 11th of the season for the Rockets.
With the loss, the Cougars now sit at 38-18-3-1 and are four points ahead of the Kamloops Blazers for first place in the B.C. Division. Both teams have played 60 games. Fittingly the Cougars will head to Kamloops for a Sunday matchup with the Blazers at 5:00 PM at the Sandman Centre. So far this season the Cougars are 2-0-1-0 against the Blazers and will face them in five of their final 12 games to end the regular season.
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