There was no way the Kelowna Rockets were going to let the Vancouver Giants have an easy time of it — not like they did six days prior at the Langley Events Centre.
On Sept. 18, the the Western Hockey League B.C. Division rivals met on Vancouver’s home ice, and the G-Men skated to an easy 6-1 victory.
But on this night, Kelowna wasn’t an easy out by any stretch.
In fact, the Rockets scored the lone goal of the third period on a power play to snap a 2-2 tie, and earn a 3-2 victory.
The Giants have now lost two in a row, three of their past four, and drop below the .500 mark at 10-11-2-2.
And while the game was close and hotly contested, there were enough red flags in Giants head coach Jason McKee’s perspective, that he was hinting towards some lineup changes in the very near future.
“We’ve got to make some changes to some personnel in certain areas,” McKee said. “When you don’t execute, there’s got to be changes. We’ve went with the same group of guys for a long time now, and tonight our execution wasn’t where it needs to be. When the coaches are yelling from the bench what we’re trying to do, that kind of tells you we’re not dialed into what we’re trying to execute.
“We’ll make some changes and we’ll move forward tomorrow (when the Giants visit Everett to play the Silvertips).”
It was an ugly start for the hosts when, 1:31 into the opening frame, they lackadaisically bobbled the puck in their own zone while on a power play, allowing Kelowna’s Carsen Twarynski to easily curl with it on the boards and wrist it past goaltender Todd Scott’s blocker for his 14th of the campaign.
The Giants answered quickly on another power play. A rebound off a Giants captain Tyler Benson’s wrist shot bounced right onto the stick of Brendan Semchuk, who steered the puck into the open net from about three feet away.
The Rockets took a 2-1 lead early in the second period on a power play after Giants defenceman Dylan Plouffe was called for delay of game. A screenshot tipped in front by Kelowna’s Kyle Topping drifted past Todd. The goal was reviewed and deemed not to be tipped in with a high stick.
But seconds later, hard work in front of the net by Dawson Holt allowed the Giants centre to smack a loose puck into the open from the blue paint to tie the game at 2-2.
The turning point came early in the third period. Ty Ronning was called for goaltender interference. It looked like the Giants’ leading scorer was pushed into Kelowna netminder James Porter while Ronning was driving hard to the net with the puck.
The Rockets capitalized on the power play when Kelowna centre Dillon Dube’s snapshot found a way past Scott at the 3:13 mark of the final frame. The goal stood up as the game winner
“That’s a tough one,” McKee said, about the call on Ronning. “That’s a tough one against us and that’s all I’m going to say about that one.”
The Giants put on some intense late pressure and pulled Scott for the extra attacker, but weren’t able to net the equalizer.
McKee said the difference on this night was special teams. The Rockets scored on two of their four power play chances while the Giants went 1-8 with the man advantage.
“Our power play wasn’t very good; our PK struggled, too, a bit, we didn’t get in lanes,” McKee said. “When we got down, a lot of the guys tried to turn the game into a one-one-one and we have a bad habit of that. We’ve to go learn that when you get down, you’ve got to continue to play as a group and as a team because there are too many good players, too many good teams in this league.”
Vancouver outshot Kelowna 32-24. Porter was solid in net in earning first star of the game honours.
The Giants have little time to rest. They’re heading to Everett tomorrow (Saturday) to play the Silvertips.
Vancouver’s next home game is Tuesday, Nov. 28 when they host the Seattle Thunderbirds at the LEC. Game time is 7 p.m.