The Okanagan Rockets left all the action until late, scoring three 3rd period goals en route to a 5-2 Game #1 victory over the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds.
The Rockets would be the lone contributors to the score in the first period and it came 8:08 into the opening frame. Coleton Bilodeau’s pass from the right wing found it’s way past T-Birds goaltender Paul Tucek for his first of the playoffs and a 1-0 Rockets lead.
That would be the only scoring of the 1st period in what was a more of a feeling out process between the two sides with the shots finishing out at 8-7 in favour of the Thunderbirds.
The teams would trade goals in the 2nd period and it started with the Rockets extending their lead to two goals at the 8:39 mark of the middle stanza. Tucek stopped Cody Schiavon’s initial shot but Zach Erhardt banged home a rebound for his 1st of the playoffs and a 2-0 Rockets advantage.
Fraser Valley would tie the game under 6 minutes later and it came courtesy of Justin Plett. After a pass from Justin Hargrave. Plett fired home a low blocker shot past Rockets net minder Cole Demers to push the T-Birds within a goal. That’s how things would stand after 40 minutes with the Rockets up by a 2-1 score and leading 21-14 on the shot clock, to go along with some enormous saves by Paul Tucek.
The Thunderbirds would get even about halfway into the 3rd period thanks to a deflection from the T-Birds leading scorer. Kyle Davis has his point shot tipped in by Mackenzie Wight in front and he tied the game with 9:30 to play in the 3rd frame.
The Rockets would kill off a penalty right after the goal and seize momentum of the contest and get their lead back at the 13:58 mark of the stanza off a great individual rush from Lucas Cullen. After flipping the puck past a T-Bird defender on the right wing, Cullen chased down the loose biscuit and went in on a partial break before going forehand-backhand and roofing a shot past Tucek for the Rockets 2nd lead of the game and a 3-2 advantage.
Just 1:06 later, Zach Erhardt spun and fired a puck through Tucek’s five hole from an awkward angle to give the Rockets a 4-2 lead and chase Paul Tucek from the game. Chase Stevenson would add a late tally on the power play, deflecting a point shot from Danny Gatenby, one of the 18 the Rockets put on goal in the third, past new T-Bird net minder Jordan Naylor to make the final a 5-2 score in favour of the Rockets.
Cole Demers stopped 15 of the 17 shots he faced for his first BCMML playoff win while Paul Tucek started the game, going 32 for 36 before being relieved by Jordan Naylor, who stopped two of the three shots he faced in just under five minutes of action.
The Rockets will look to punch their ticket to the BCMML semi-finals with a victory in Game #2 when they take on the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds on Saturday night from the Capital News Centre’s 2nd rink. Game time is set for 5:15 pm and if you can’t make it, be sure to catch all the action live on www.playfullscreen.com.