By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
It turns out the Kelowna Rockets are vincible after all.
Kelowna lost for the first time since November on Friday night as the Rockets were knocked off by the Vancouver Giants 4-2.
Kelowna went into the contest riding a 16-game winning streak, with the Rockets’ last loss coming Nov. 20 in a 4-1 home loss to Victoria. But Jackson Houck scored a hat trick as the Giants slew the Rockets.
“It’s a huge confidence boost,” Vancouver defenseman Dalton Thrower told the Vancouver Province following the game.
Kelowna is in the midst of a historic season. The Rockets headed into Friday’s game having lost just three times in regulation in 37 games, going 32-3-0-2. Kelowna was on pace to compile 128 points, which would break the league record.
And the Rockets headed into the game at Vancouver on a roll. Kelowna had won 16 straight, and the Rockets were coming off back-to-back blowout road victories against defending league champion Portland, Kelowna’s biggest obstacle in the Western Conference.
But the Giants were playing well, winning seven of nine going into the game, and Vancouver was well worth its victory. The Giants outshot the Rockets 26-17, and Houck scored twice in a span of 1 minute, 24 seconds in the third period to break a 2-2 tie.
“We’re just putting our heads down and working,” Houck told the Province.
“We want teams to say, ‘Vancouver’s a hard team to play against and they didn’t give us much,’” Houck added. “If we’re able to do that night in and night out, I think we’re going to be pretty good.”
But don’t feel bad for the Rockets. The Rockets and Giants played again the next night in Kelowna, and the Rockets earned their revenge with a 4-2 victory of their own. It remains to be seen whether this propels Kelowna on yet another long winning streak.
Around the WHL
A number of trades were made in advance of Friday’s trade deadline. The biggest saw Swift Current acquire 20-year-old forward Nathan Burns from Saskatoon along with a seventh-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft in exchange for 20-year-old forward Connor Sanvido, 16-year-old prospect forward Wyatt Sloboshan, a second-round pick in 2014 and a conditional third rounder in 2015. ? Spokane dealt away 18-year-old defenseman Tyler King, sending him to Kootenay in exchange for 16-year-old forward Hudson Elynuik. ? Edmonton bolstered its defense by acquiring 19-year-old defenseman Blake Orban from Vancouver for a second-round pick in 2014. ? Moose Jaw acquired want away 18-year-old defenseman Spenser Jensen from Medicine Hat in exchange for a third-round pick in 2014, a sixth rounder in 2014 and a conditional pick in 2016. Jensen, a former first-round bantam pick, left the Tigers because of a lack of playing time. ? Nineteen-year-old Kelowna forward Ryan Olsen signed an entry-level contract with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. ? Kelowna’s Myles Bell was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 20-year-old forward had five goals and five assists as the Rockets went 3-1. ? Kelowna’s Tyson Baillie was named the WHL Player of the Month for December. The 18-year-old forward had five goals and 15 assists in 12 games. ? Calgary’s Chris Driedger was named the WHL Goaltender of the Month for December. The 19-year-old went 7-1-1-0 with a 1.67 goals against average and .946 save percentage.
Points — Mitch Holmberg (Spokane) 81; goals — Holmberg 41; assists — Nicolas Petan (Portland) 46; penalty minutes — Sam Grist (Kamloops) 122; wins — Jordon Cooke (Kelowna) 25; goals against average — Coleman Vollrath (Victoria) 1.99; save percentage — Vollrath .941.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter @NickHPatterson.