The Okanagan Rockets ended an ugly 12 game road trip, and an ugly 5 game winless streak on Sunday morning at the Langley Events Centre thanks to a heart stopping 6-5 win over the Valley West Hawks.
Brett Witala posted a goal, his 13th along with 4 helpers to pace the Rockets attack in Langley. Brandon Whistle added his 12th and 13th goals, while Marcus Mitchell contributed his team leading 20th, and 21st goals of the campaign, including the game winner with just 3:37 to go in regulation time. Captain Mark Krabben also scored, the goal was his 2nd of the year as he snuck in from the blue line to push home a power play marker for the Rockets.
The Rockets appeared to have things under control with period leads of 3-1 and 5-3, but much like their last two consecutive games against the Greater Vancouver Canadians, the Rockets couldn't hold the 3rd period lead and watched the Hawks rally to get the equalizer with just 4:37 remaining.
That set the stage for Mitchell, and one of the biggest goals of the season for the Rockets as Brett Witala carried the puck through the neutral zone on a two on one break. Witala out waited the Hawks defenceman and got the puck to Mitchell who got Hawks goaltender Jakob Walter moving in the wrong direction and then showed great patience to bring the puck back the other way for an easy tap in to the wide open goal. The Rockets had a lead they would protect with 3:37 to go.
"We needed this win in a big way" said Rockets head coach Simon Ferguson. "We have been playing well in stretches, and probably deserved a better fate in some of the games we tied or lost during this 5 game stretch, but to get 2 points today against a team that was tied with us in the standing was huge for our group. Hopefully we have the monkey off our backs a bit and we can finish out strong and hold on to home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs."
Cole Demers made 29 saves for his 10th win in his rookie season with the Rockets. Both Demers and 17 year Jordan Reynolds have identical records of 10-5-2 on the season.
The victory improved the Rockets overall record to 20-10-4 on the year and moved them past the Chiefs by a single point into 3rd place. The Hawks remain 5th, just 2 points behind the Rockets, while the Greater Vancouver Canadians are just 3 points behind the Rockets, although the Rockets do hold 2 games in hand against the Canadians. The Rockets, Chiefs, and Hawks have all played 34 games and have 6 remaining.
The Rockets have now completed the longest road stretch in club history, 12 straight BCMML games away from the Capital News Centre dating back to December 6th, 2014. Over the 12 games the Rockets went a modest 4-5-3, but they now return to the Capital News Centre for 5 of their last six games. The Rockets are 11-3-1 on home ice this year, and have outscored their opposition 58-34 in the process.
The Rockets will face the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds this weekend before a home and home with the Thompson Blazers the following weekend. The Rockets will close out the BCMML regular season against the first place Cariboo Cougars.
On Saturday, the Rockets got a first period goal from Sam Binfet, his 13th of the season before the Hawks took over en route to a 4-1 win. The Hawks held a 2-1 advantage after 40 minutes of play, then put the contest away early in the 3rd period before notching an empty netter to close out the scoring.
Jordan Reynolds made 26 saves in the loss, his 5th of the season.