Kelowna Rockets beat Victoria Tuesday, winning for the fifth time in six games since returning 10 days ago

Rockets 'Kope'-ing just fine

A grizzled veteran and raw rookie delivered for the Kelowna Rockets Tuesday night in a 5-1 victory over the Victoria Royals.

Overage forward David Kope ran his point streak to five games with a goal and two assists to lead the way offensively.

At the back end, 16-year-old Nicholas Cristiano turned aside 31 of 32 shots in his Western Hockey League debut.

Cristiano has been with the team since the shortened season began last month as insurance against injury to one of the top two goaltenders.

He was rewarded with the start Tuesday.

"It's awesome. He made some real good saves," said head coach Kris Mallette following the game.

"This could have gone the other way," a reference to nine power play opportunities the Rockets gave up in the game.

"But, he was calm and poised in there."

Kope, who leads the team in scoring with three goals and 11 points, opened the scoring 26 second in. Linemate Mark Liwiski, who has generated good chemistry with Kope, stripped a Victoria defender of the puck with a hit down low, then centered for Kope, who buried the one-timer from the slot.

The game stayed that way until midway through the second when the Rockets put the game away with goals 30 seconds apart.

On a power play, Kope partially fanned on a backdoor one-timer from below the left circle. The puck dribbled toward the goal line where Liwiski was waiting to help the puck across the line.

The assist was Kope's 100th WHL point.

Thirty seconds later, rookie Scott Cousins intercepted a loose puck in the slot. His shot deflected off a Victoria stick and past Keegan Maddocks in the Royals net.

It was Cousins' first career WHL goal.

Trevor Wong backhanded home a rebound on another power play for his sixth of the season before Tyson Feist closed out the scoring into the empty net.

Feist has at least one point in each of the six games he has played.

The lone Victoria goal came on one of their nine power plays.

"We didn't do ourselves any favours," said Mallette of the parade to the penalty box.

"It's a trend we've had for years...this is a concern."

Mallette vowed to work at bucking the penalty trend.

The Rockets, who are tied with Prince George for third in the BC Division, face the top two teams over their next three outings.

They'll host Vancouver Thursday and Kamloops Friday before facing the Blazers in Kamloops Saturday.

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