Kelowna Rockets end abbreviated WHL season with hard fought 3-2 win over Victoria

Rockets close out on a win

The WHL's abbreviated BC Division season concluded where, and how it started Wednesday night - at Prospera Place with the Kelowna Rockets victorious over the Victoria Royals.

In between, as the COVID-19 virus hit the team, the Rockets were sent into the uncertainty of a 17-day quarantine.

Since that pause in all team activities, the Rockets emerged winning nine of their 14 games to finish second in the BC Division behind Kamloops with a .656 points-per-game percentage.

Head coach Kris Mallette said after the game, he took a moment to tell the players how proud he was of them and the way they carried themselves through a difficult two months.

"I wanted to make sure they knew that given the circumstances of what went on with our group and the adversity we all faced, I don't think anybody would have envisioned us 10-5-1-0 in that stretch," said Mallette.

"I just wanted to let them know that they did everything that was asked of them. We had some highs, we had some lows, but they came to the rink every day ready to work with a smile on their face."

The Rockets jumped on the Royals early when Alex Swetlikoff notched his sixth of the campaign. A Victoria defenceman slapped at the puck as Swetlikoff was cutting hard to the net off the right wing.

The puck seemed to bounce off Swetlikoff and shoot up into the air over Adam Evanoff's right shoulder and into the net.

It took a few moments before anyone realized the puck had actually settled into the back of the net. Defenceman Jackson DeSouza, playing just his fourth game, picked up his first WHL point on the play.

In a season full of firsts, defenceman Noah Dorey notched his first career goal 10 minutes later with a wrist shot from the high slot off a draw in the Victoria end.

"He was feeling it tonight. He was a little high-risk at times, but he seemed to have the puck on a string at times," said Mallette of Dorey.

"And Jackson DeSouza i think has played only three or four games for us, but he's a big kid, skates very well. I think he could be something pretty good. He played really strong tonight.

After the Royals cut into the lead, veteran defenceman Jake Lee, who had a knack for timely goals over the abbreviated season re-established the two-goal lead with a spectacular individual effort, beating a defenceman off the left point, and sniping a wrist shot high to the short side from the bottom of the left circle.

"I got around the guy, I saw the top corner was open, so I shut my eyes and shot the puck," said Lee.

Lee, who had a career high five goals in 60 games last season, scored three times in just 16 games over the past two months.

"I really wanted to elevate my game on both sides of the ice, but offensively I wanted to produce a little more and contribute a little more on that side. I think I did well."

Lee and Tyson Feist both finished tied for the team lead in defenceman scoring with 10 points.

The Royals did make it interesting down the stretch, pulling to within one in the final minute, but the Rockets were able to run out the clock and preserve the win.

Roman Basran made several key saves, blocking 28 shots in the victory.

Wednesday's game also marked the end of the line for Sean Comrie, Dillon Hamaliuk and David Kope who all played their final Western Hockey League game.

The players head home Thursday in hopes of being able to return to a more normal season in September.

Shutout win over Prince George an exclamation point on successful bubble season for Kamloops Blazers

Blazers finish bubble on top

Four different players scored Wednesday as the Kamloops Blazers closed out their strange, pandemic-shortened bubble WHL season with a 4-0 win over the Prince George Cougars in an empty Sandman Centre.

The Blazers celebrated after the game at centre ice with a trophy recognizing their second consecutive B.C. Division championship.

Josh Pillar, Logan Bairos, Ethan Braidwood and Orrin Centazzo had goals and Dylan Garand was perfect on 28 Prince George shots. Bairos’ goal was his first in the WHL.

The game marked the end of the junior hockey road for Kamloops’ three graduating 20 year olds — Montana Onyebuchi, Sean Strange and Orrin Centazzo.

Team captain Connor Zary, a first-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames last fall, is expected to move on next season to the professional ranks. He was not in the line up on Wednesday, but was suited up and on the ice post-game celebrating with his teammates.

Kamloops offence explodes for 10 against Kelowna Rockets

Blazers lay 10 on Rockets

It's just as well fans weren't allowed inside Prospera Place Monday, because they wouldn't have liked what they saw.

The Kamloops Blazers rolled into town and hung a double-digit licking on the Kelowna Rockets - a 10-2 thumping - the worst defeat of the shortened season for the Rockets.

The Blazers only led 2-0 after the opening 20 minutes, but poured it on over the final 40, scoring four in the second and four more in the third.

"it seemed like every pass they made was tape-to-tape, they were skating with a lot of speed, we seemed a little disconnected to say the least," said head coach Kirs Mallette during the post game show.

"There was no puck support. We were just watching, a lot. And, obviously their power play had a hay day."

The Blazers scored five of their 10 with the man advantage, the second time in the four meetings Kamloops torched the Rockets for five power play goals.

In fact, over the four games during the abbreviated season, Kamloops connected for 12 goals on 21 chances with the man advantage.

Connor Levis paced the Blazers offensively with three goals, his second hat trick against the Rockets. He also added a pair of assists.

Matthew Seminoff scored twice while Fraser Minten added a goal and four assists and Caedan Bankier chipped in with a goal and two assists.

Alex Swetlikoff and Dillon Hamaliuk scored the lone goals for the Rockets early in the third period.

The Rockets will close out the abbreviated season Wednesday when they host the Victoria Royals.

Four Kamloops Blazers named to WHL's B.C. Division hub team of the week

Four Blazers earn honours

Four of the six players named to the most recent WHL B.C. Team of the Week are Kamloops Blazers.

Forwards Matthew Seminoff and Fraser Minten and defencemen Mats Lindgren and Quinn Schmiemann were announced on Monday as members of the B.C. Division hub’s team of the week.

Sminoff and Minten each put up five points in three games played last week, while Lindgren and Schmiemann each managed three assists.

Also named to the weekly hub team on Monday were Victoria forward Tarun Fizer and Prince George goalie Taylor Gauthier.

This week is the last week of play in the WHL’s B.C. Division, which the Blazers clinched on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Vancouver.

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