Junior hockey: Rockets to host Chiefs as playoff race tightens
A game preview and playoff round-up of junior hockey teams in the Okanagan.
WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE
Wednesday, March 13, 2019: Spokane Chiefs at Kelowna Rockets. Game time, 7:05 p.m., Prospera Place, Kelowna
One week ago, in the race for third place in B.C. Division standings, the Kelowna Rockets had a seven-point lead over the Kamloops Blazers.
Today, with Kamloops now riding a sudden winning streak, Kelowna’s lead has shrunk to just two points.
And that gap may shrink or outright disappear by this weekend.
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This is the final week of regular-season play, and each team has three games left. While Kelowna has a slight lead, Kamloops has a statistically easier schedule than the Rockets, and the fourth-place Blazers could leapfrog into third in B.C. Division standings.
Finishing third is important as it guarantees a playoff berth – a first-round series against the second-place Victoria Royals. Finishing fourth likely means missing the playoffs.
READ MORE: WHL Roundup: Tuesday, March 12, 2019
In WHL action for Wednesday, March 13, 2019, Kamloops (26-32-5-2, 59 points) will host Victoria (33-28-2-2, 70 pts.). Meanwhile, Kelowna (27-31-5-2, 61 pts.) will host the Spokane Chiefs (37-21-2-5, 81 pts.).
Kelowna is 1-2-0-0 against Spokane this season while Kamloops is 3-5-0-0 against Victoria.
The real challenge for the Rockets will be this weekend.
Kelowna will close out its regular-season schedule with a home-and-home set against first-place Vancouver (47-15-2-2, 98 pts.). The Giants are 6-0-0-1 against the Rockets this season.
Meanwhile, Kamloops will close out its regular-season schedule with a home-and-home set against fifth-and-last-place Prince George (18-40-5-3, 44 pts.). The Blazers are 6-0-0-1 against the Cougars this season.
However, Kelowna could do themselves a big favour by beating Spokane tonight at Prospera Place. On Tuesday night, the Blazers slapped the Chiefs 5-1 for their third consecutive win. Last weekend, Kamloops swept a home-and-home set with Kelowna, winning 2-1 in a shootout on Friday, then 2-1 on Saturday.
In head-to-head meetings between Kelowna and Spokane, all three contests have taken place in the last five weeks. Spokane won 4-0 on Feb. 1 and 5-4 on Feb. 6, but Kelowna won the last meeting, a 4-3 shootout decision on Feb. 22.
Notably, the Chiefs are 7-2-0-1 in their past 10 games while the Rockets are 4-4-1-1.
In Western Conference wildcard standings, Tri-City (34-26-4-1, 73 pts.) has the first of two wildcard spots locked up. The second one is still open, but Seattle (28-29-6-2, 64 pts.) is the leading candidate. The Thunderbirds, with 64 points and three games left, have a good gap over Kelowna (61 pts.) and Kamloops (59 pts.).
KOOTENAY INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Kelowna 5, Summerland 0
The Kelowna Chiefs are one win away from advancing to the third round of the playoffs.
At Summerland on Tuesday night, Braeden Mitchell was perfect between the pipes with 29 saves as the Chiefs blanked the Steam 5-0 in Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead.
Brody Dale, Jordan Lowry, Tyler Love, Lane Paddison and Devin Sutton scored for Kelowna, which led 1-0 after the first period and 3-0 after the second.
Jared Breitkreuz stopped 30 of 35 shots for Summerland, which won the series opener, 2-1, but has been outscored 17-4 in the last three games.
The Chiefs were 1-for-2 on the power play in Game 4, while the Steam were 0-for-1. The attendance was 291.
The best-of-seven affair resumes Thursday, March 14, with Game 5 at Rutland Arena in Kelowna.
Revelstoke 3, 100 Mile House 2
At 100 Mile House, Brenden Vulcano scored the winner in overtime for Revelstoke as the Grizzlies grabbed a 3-0 lead in their series with the Wranglers.
Ryan Pereverzoff and Jon Vandermolen also scored for Revelstoke. Kolby Page and Cody Barnes replied for 100 Mile House.
Revelstoke opened the scoring when Pereverzoff lit the lamp at 9:22 of the first, but the Wranglers quickly replied when Page scored at 10:40.
Barnes made it 2-1 for 100 Mile House at 17:58 of the second, with Vandermolen levelling the score for Revelstoke at 14:57 of the third. Vulcano ended the game at 13:39 of overtime.
Liam McGarva stopped 25 of 27 shots for the Grizzlies, with Jakob Gullmes turning aside 30 of 33 shots for the Wranglers.
Revelstoke was 1-for-4 on the power play while 100 Mile House was 1-for-2. The attendance was 577.
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