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Tij Iginla scored twice as the Kelowna Rockets dumped Wenatchee 5-1 Tuesday

Rockets take series lead

It took about half a period for the Kelowna Rockets to settle into game three of their first round playoff series with the Wenatchee Wild Tuesday night.

But once they did, they outplayed the visitors in a 5-1 victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series.

Since surrendering eight goals in a game one meltdown, the Rockets have allowed just two over the last two games.

The Wild were all over the Rockets early and were rewarded when Briley Wood rifled a backdoor one-timer from the left circle on a Wenatchee power play.

It's all the Wild would get on Yari Kykkanen who slammed the door shut the rest of the way.

Head coach Kris Mallette chalked the slow start up to nerves playing before the home crowd for the first time in the playoffs.

"That's what I talked about after the first period...I understand it and I liked our response," said Mallette.

"There was some nervous energy."

Mallette also gave credit to the visitors who were winning most of the puck battles and putting the Rockets back on their heals.

"I liked our response as it went on but yea, maybe we had to get a little bit of a rhythm under us I think we did well."

Tij Iginla ignited that response with a spectacular individual effort. Daniel Hauser made the initial stop on Iginla's breakaway, but the Rockets leading sniper found the rebound, tapped it under Hauser and watched as the puck trickled, ever so slowly across the goal line.

It was his first of two on the night giving him five in the series.

Marek Rocak gave the Rockets their first lead a little more than a minute later when he took a drop pass from Gabriel Szturc and beat Hauser from just inside the left circle.

It proved to be all Kykkanen would need on a night when he stopped 31 shots directed his way.

"I think we played amazing tonight. Guys were sacrificing all around, blocking shots," said Kykkanen.

"Our penalty kill was dialed in tonight. It was a lot of fun to play behind those guys tonight."

Kykkanen also gave credit to his D-corp for boxing out around the net and allowing him to see virtually everything fired his way.

His biggest save came early in the third when he slid across to make a sensational pad save off Wood at the edge of the crease to preserve what was a two goal lead at the time.

Caden Price coming off the right point to lean into a wrist shot from the mid slot, Iginla with a tap in during an odd-man rush and Luke Schelter with a sweeping wrister at the back end of another odd-man rush also scored for the Rockets.

Michael Cicek picked up a pair of assists.

Mallette credits some adjustments both in game and between games with helping the team improve in certain areas.

"Josh MacNevin, good on him. He made a few little adjustments (on the penalty kill), got some sacrifices blocking some shots...the guys are buying in getting results."

Mallette also made a change to the way the Rockets played the big line of the Wild, putting Schelter, Wightman and Hurley against the top trio after the first period which slowed down that trio.

The Rockets look to take a stranglehold on the series when the teams meet again Wednesday at Prospera Place before the series shifts back to Wenatchee for game five Friday night.



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