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Rockets get whacked by Hitmen

Friday, February 19th, 2010 | 10:12 pm

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Mark Guggenberger had his strongest showing of the year but his Rockets still fell to the Hitmen 4-1. (File photo Chris Stanford)

By Pieter Uni

The Calgary Hitmen overcame a strong performance from Kelowna’s Mark Guggenberger to hand the Rockets only their second loss in their last 10 games.

Kelowna’s backup goaltender made 31 saves but couldn’t stop a Cody Sylvester game-winning deflection in the second period as the Hitmen held on for a hard fought 4-1 win.

After the game, Rockets head coach Ryan Huska wasn’t pleased with the way his Rockets competed.

“They are a good hockey team, they are for sure but I don’t think we gave ourselves a chance,” said Huska “I almost think we gave them too much respect and I don’t think we really played that well.”

While coach Huska wasn’t happy, he admitted his team had many opportunities to level the score, including a Brandon McMillan shot that struck iron in the third.

“That was the frustrating part for us. We were still in the game at that point even though we probably didn’t deserve to be and that is the frustrating thing. You do hit a post and it maybe it is a different story,” said Huska. But like I said, I think our guys are capable of much more than what they gave tonight.”

Guggenberger, who made only his 14th start of the season, was solid but was unable to outperform Calgary’s Martin Jones, who made 23 saves to record the win.

“We didn’t have everyone going tonight and that is something we expect at this time of the year,” said Guggenberger. “Hopefully we can figure it out and get a good effort in tomorrow night. We just have to look in the mirror and put in a better effort.”

With the victory, the Hitmen (42-17-1-1) have now won four of their last five and nine of their last 10 and remain in third spot in the Eastern Conference of the WHL. For the Rockets (29-27-2-3), the loss keeps the team in sixth spot in the Western Conference, three points ahead of Chilliwack and Kamloops.

Calgary opened the game with eight straight shots before Kelowna were able to record their first and it was no surprise that the visiting Hitmen were first to score.

After Kelowna was whistled for too many men, Calgary’s Zak Stebner beat Guggenberger at 5:28 with a long point shot to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

But the Rockets responded thanks to star defenceman Tyson Barrie. The Victoria product scored his 15th of the year less than a minute later to level the score at one apiece.

While it appeared the Rockets had grabbed momentum, it was the Hitmen who had the best chances to break the first period deadlock. Calgary’s Joel Broda was stopped by Guggenberger on a breakaway before the Kelowna netminder thwarted Del Cowan seconds later on a second breakaway chance.

The second period saw both teams push to take the lead, but only the visitors were able to find the back of the net.

After Kelowna blew an early power play chance, the Hitmen took the lead thanks to Cody Sylvester. The brother of Kootenay Ice star forward Dustin Sylvester beat Guggenberger with a nice tip, after Giffen Nyren sent a booming shot from the point towards the Kelowna net.

While Guggenberger couldn’t stop Sylvester’s deft deflection, the Rockets netminder was key in keeping the game close. After Geordie Wudrick was assessed a four minute high sticking penalty, Guggenberger made three solid saves to keep his Rockets within one after two periods of play.

Kelowna pushed hard to even the score in the third but couldn’t beat Jones or the post. The Calgary goaltender made eight third period saves and got lucky when McMillan hit the post midway through the period before Calgary’s Ian Schultz and Cowan each notched singles late in the third to round out the scoring.

The Rockets now head to Portland where they begin a five-game road trip before returning home to play Spokane March 3.

sports@kelowna.com

250-863-8049

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