Rockets roll in third period to clip stubborn Giants 5-3

 

Underdog Vancouver pushes Kelowna hard before falling in front of 9,400 fans at the Pacific Coliseum

 
 
 
 
Brett Kulak of the Vancouver Giants (left) and Cody Fowlie of the Kelowna Rockets hotly pursue a loose puck during Friday's Western Hockey League action at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
 
 

Brett Kulak of the Vancouver Giants (left) and Cody Fowlie of the Kelowna Rockets hotly pursue a loose puck during Friday's Western Hockey League action at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

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The Vancouver Giants don’t officially start the second half of their Western Hockey League season until Sunday, but they apparently decided Friday was a good time for a running start. At least for two periods.

Coach Don Hay’s skaters scored twice on the power play, outshot the red-hot Kelowna Rockets 23-8 through 40 minutes and looked anything like the Western Hockey League’s cellar-dwelling team. It was 3-3 and anyone’s ball game.

Then reality finally set in as the Rockets stormed the G-Men in the third, outshot them 11-4, outscored them 2-0 and prevailed 5-3 before a holiday crowd of 9,414 at the Pacific Coliseum. It was the Giants’ third straight loss and 26th in 35 outings. Kelowna, meanwhile, moved to within two points of the B.C. Division-leading Kamloops Blazers.

“We got scored on the first shift on the first shot and we battled through that and really competed hard,” Hay said. “That second period could have been our best period of the year and then in the third we just didn’t make any plays with the puck. They pushed the level up and we didn’t push back. When you play a really good hockey team, they’re going to get their opportunities and they made the best of them.”

The Rockets drew two penalties early in the third and scored on the second one as Colten Martin’s centring pass deflected in off Giant defenceman Mason Geertsen at the 7:26 mark. Dylen McKinlay added a short-handed tally five minutes later to complete the scoring.

“Those two penalties really put us back on our heels,” Hay noted. “We did a really good job killing to that point but it catches up to you.”

Goaltending was not an issue Friday for the Giants as rusty third-stringer Tyler Fuhr (not related to Grant) made his first start since Nov. 18. He finished with 14 saves.

Fuhr was pressed into action by the surprise “retirement” Wednesday of Liam Liston and the fact No. 1 man Payton Lee was back in Quebec playing for Team Pacific at the World Under-17 Challenge.

“I thought Tyler was fine,” Hay said. “He gave us the opportunity to win, made a couple of solid saves and I thought, for his first game in a long time, he did really well.”

McKinlay finished with two goals for the Rockets, while Cody Fowlie and Tyrell Goulbourne had the others.

The Giants, who trailed 2-0 after one, pulled even after 40 minutes, outscoring the Rockets 3-1 and outshooting them by a whopping 17-3 margin in the middle period. Trevor Cheek and Carter Popoff netted power-play goals 93 seconds apart to make it a 2-2 game before Kelowna regained the lead on Goulbourne’s tally just 52 seconds after Popoff had tied it.

Cain Franson again pulled Vancouver even when he roofed a backhander past Rockets’ starter Jackson Whistle, the former Giant, with just 4.8 seconds remaining in the period. It was sweet revenge for Franson, who was thwarted by Whistle (stick save) on a penalty shot at the 18:10 mark.

The Giants are in Kamloops Saturday night and return home Sunday to face the Prince George Cougars in a 4 p.m. start at the Coliseum.

Ladner native Alex Ahnert, a 19-year-old junior B goalie, dressed as Fuhr’s back up Friday.

G-NOTES: The Giants dressed call-up defenceman Kyle Krabben on Friday. Krabben, a 17-year-old, was acquired from the Kootenay Ice in the Austin Vetterl trade on Nov. 1. His club team is the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior League. He’s listed at 6-0 and 170 pounds ... Locked-out NHL forward Jordin Tootoo, formerly of Nashville and now a Detroit Red Wing, was in the house Friday.

epap@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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Brett Kulak of the Vancouver Giants (left) and Cody Fowlie of the Kelowna Rockets hotly pursue a loose puck during Friday's Western Hockey League action at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
 

Brett Kulak of the Vancouver Giants (left) and Cody Fowlie of the Kelowna Rockets hotly pursue a loose puck during Friday's Western Hockey League action at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

 
Brett Kulak of the Vancouver Giants (left) and Cody Fowlie of the Kelowna Rockets hotly pursue a loose puck during Friday's Western Hockey League action at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
Kelowna Rockets goaltender Jackson Whistle peers through the legs of Vancouver Giants' forward Kale Kessy during Friday's Western Hockey League action at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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