Friday, 8 May 2015

Rockets Grab Game One

Rihards Bukarts scored twice for Brandon in Friday's loss
  The Kelowna Rockets drew first blood in the Western Hockey League's championship series Friday night with a 4-3 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings.

  Leon Draisaitl's goal with 1:10 left in the second period snapped a 3-3 tie, and came just 55 seconds after the Wheat Kings had tied the contest.

  "That was good momentum for our team and we didn't manage that well at all," said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on CKLQ's post-game show, "I think if we had gone into the intermission tied 3-3, we would have had momentum and that, for me, was the stretch of the was the winning goal so that's how important that goal was."

  Brandon got off to a good start with Rihards Bukarts notching a power-play goal 4:58 into the opening frame to give the Wheat Kings a 1-0 lead, but the Rockets countered with a power-play goal of their own with Tyson Baillie scoring at 17:41 to leave the teams tied 1-1 after 20 minutes.

  The Rocekts nearly made it 2-1 late in the opening period but Rourke Chartier was robbed of what looked to be another power-play goal with a glove save from Brandon goaltender Jordan Papirny, one of his 36 saves on the night.

  Kelowna did take the lead early in the second period as Justin Kirkland and Chance Braid scored goals 27 seconds apart to give the Rockets a 3-1 advantage.

  Both goals were uncharacteristically poor ones on Papirny, with a Kirkland shot from the top of the right circle squeeking its way through and the Braid goal coming after Papirny thought he had the puck tied up in his gear but having it fall into his feet and never being able to find control of it.

  "I guess it was sitting on the side of the net there," said Papirny on CKLQ's post-game show, "I saw it on the replay...I didn't know where the puck was and it just got bounced around in my feet there and went across the line."

  Brandon rallied to tie the game on a Peter Quenneville power-play goal at 15:58, his league-leading seventh with the man advantage in the post-season, followed by Bukarts' second of the game 1:57 later.

  The teams played a goalless third period, with Brandon having a couple of decent scoring chances that were turned back by Kelowna netminder Jackson Whistle, who finished with 25 saves.

  It's the second time in the 2015 playoffs the Wheat Kings have lost the opening game of a series on home-ice, and Papirny says they'll have to lean on the experience of losing Game #1 against Edmonton in the opening round.

  "You know, that one wasn't even a close game," said Papirny, "Keeping this one a one-goal game and not blowing our composure was big and I think (Saturday) is just about having a good start and getting on them early."

  Game #2 of the WHL Final is set for Saturday night (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

Chaff...F Ty Lewis made his WHL playoff debut in Game #1, drawing into the lineup with F Reid Duke and D Kale Clague still sidelined for Brandon...the Wheat Kings also scratched D Mark Taraschuk, D Mark Matsuba, F Stelio Mattheos and F Quintin Lisoway...Kelowna F Rourke Chartier, who missed the last three games of the Western Conference Final, played in Game #1 for the Rockets...Brandon was 2-for-3 on the power-play while Kelowna went 1-for-4...a season-high 5,502 attended Game #1 Friday...there'll be a tail-gate party from 3-7 p.m. in the South parking lot at the Keystone Centre ahead of Game #2 on Saturday.

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