The Kelowna Rockets have rarely been pushed on their way to a franchise-record 10-0 start, but the Spokane Chiefs gave them a hearty challenge on Friday.
Riley Stadel and Madison Bowey scored 59 seconds apart early in the second period to allow the Rockets to turn back Spokane’s challenge with a 3-2 Western Hockey League decision at the Arena.
“I think (Spokane) came out pushing and we knew that was going to happen,” said Bowey, a second-round draft pick by the Washington Capitals last year. “I think we were a little flat to start off, but they’re a good hockey club over there and … they gave us a good push and it was nice to see the guys respond and come back.”
Kelowna, the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League, has won every other game by two goals or more, except for a 5-4 overtime victory over Everett.
“It’s a measuring tape for us,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “That’s the No. 1-ranked team. We don’t like to lose… but the overall effort was there. The heart was in it.”
The Chiefs dropped to 4-2-2-0 overall and 2-2-1-0 at home. Five of their eight games have been decided by one goal or less.
Both teams started 17-year-old backup goaltenders. Kelowna’s Jake Morrissey stopped 26 shots0, and held up when the Chiefs outshot the Rockets 9-1 in the final period. Spokane’s Tyson Verhelst made 17 saves.
“This was our third game in four nights and it will be four games in five nights (Saturday),” Nachbaur said. “Our plan was to play our young goalie in one of those games and we selected tonight. He was really good for me and got better as the game went on.”
The Chiefs outshot Kelowna 9-6 in the first period and led 1-0 at 9:48 on Adam Helewka’s second goal of the season, assisted by Jason Fram and Calder Brooks. The Chiefs fought off a 5-on-3 Kelowna power play and had just erased the following 5-on-4 when Austin Glover tied the game at 15:55.
“We were standing beside the guy, unaware that he was there and they scored from in front of our net,” Nachbaur said. “It’s just poor coverage by one of our forwards. Attribute that to they capitalized on that chance.”
Kelowna, with the top-rated power play (35.8 percent) in the league, was 1 for 6 on the night but took a 2-1 lead with its one success – Stadel scoring on a flurry out front at 32 seconds of the second period.
Cole Linaker made a superb pass to Bowey less than a minute later for a 3-1 lead.
Helewka fed Brooks for the final goal, at 13:25 of the second.
“That’s a good hockey team,” Nachbaur said. “Our guys competed hard. … That was a good step for us.”
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