(ISN) – KELOWNA, – The Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Kelowna Rockets 5-2 Friday night at Prospera Place behind a stellar performance from goalie Taran Kozun.
The netminder made 36 saves in the game, including stopping the first 10 shots he faced before the T-Birds were able to register a shot on goal.
Kozun and the T-Birds weathered the storm from the league leading Rockets in the early going before scoring twice late in the first period. Kozun improves his record to 20-11-2-3 with the win.
Seattle (22-16-2-3) took a 2-0 lead late in the first period with two goals 57 seconds apart from Roberts Lipsbergs and Scott Eansor.
Cory Millette banged the puck off the right boards in the neutral zone where Lipsbergs got to it. Lipsbergs carried the puck down the right wing and into the Kelowna zone with a defenseman in front of him. Lipsbergs took a shot from the right circle and Kelowna goalie Jackson Whistle kicked out his left pad to make the save. The puck came right back to Lipsbergs and he beat Whistle from the bottom of the face-off circle at 18:07 of period.
Lipsbergs set up the T-Birds second goal at 19:04 of the first. He carried the puck into the Kelowna zone on the left wing. Kolesar skated into the left circle and while looking at Whistle crossed the puck across the slot to Scott Eansor. Eansor blasted the pass past Whistle for his sixth goal of the season.
Lipsbergs has four points in four games since joining the T-Birds on January 5 from the Stockton Thunder of the East Coast Hockey League.
Kelowna outshot Seattle 17-9 in the first period.
Kelowna (34-8-4-0) cut the T-Birds lead to one goal at 6:39 of the second period. Nick Merkley beat Kozun in the slot after Tyrel Goulbourne forced a turnover.
The T-Birds came right back and got the two-goal lead back 15 seconds after the Rockets scored. Lane Pederson sent the puck from the right corner to Evan Wardley at the right point. Wardley took a wrist shot that Cory Millette tipped past Whistle’s left leg.
Millette has played three games with the T-Birds since being acquired from Prince Albert. He has a goal in all three of the games. Lane Pederson now has a four-game assist streak with the assist on Millette’s goal.
The Rockets outshot the T-Birds 12-8 in the second period and led 29-17 in shots after two periods.
The T-Birds started the third period on the power play. They were able convert at 1:02 to take a 4-1 lead. Ryan Gropp moved the puck to Ethan Bear at the left point. Bear held the puck then crossed it to Shea Theodore in the right circle. Theodore one-timed Bear’s pass and beat Whistle for his sixth goal of the season.
Theodore has an eight-game point streak and has registered a point in 10 of 14 games he has played with the T-Birds this season. Ethan Bear now has a four-game point streak with the assist on Theodore’s goal.
Kelowna replaced Whistle with Michael Herringer after the T-Birds fourth goal. Whistle made 15 saves on 19 shots and his record is now 26-7-3-0.
Madison Bowey scored for Kelowna on a slap shot at 13:39 of the third to cut the T-Birds lead to two goals. Riley Stadel had the only assist on the goal.
Kelowna pulled Herringer with 2:36 left in the game. The T-Birds blocked shots and Kozun made several saves to keep the Rockets at bay. Donovan Neuls got to a loose puck after a blocked shot. He spotted Keegan Kolesar on right side and sent him the puck. Kolesar skated around the last Kelowna defenseman and went the length of the ice and put the puck into the empty net with 26 seconds left in the game.
Herringer stopped all four shots he faced in 17 minutes of action.
Kelowna outshot Seattle 9-7 in the third period and 38-24 in the game.
The T-Birds are in Everett Saturday night to take on the Silvertips at 7:05pm at Xfinity Arena.