The Portland Winterhawks (7-8-0-0) fell 5-4 to the visiting Kelowna Rockets (12-5-0-0) Friday at the Moda Center.
The Hawks opened the scoring midway through the first on a rush into the Kelowna zone. Defenseman Conor MacEachern trailed the play, took a feed from Evan Weinger and wired a shot top corner over netminder Jackson Whistle’s shoulder for his first career goal and a 1-0 lead.
Kelowna responded at 15:43 with a power play goal from Calvin Thurkauf to even the game at 1-1, then took a lead at 17:54 on another power play goal, this one from Tyson Baillie, to make it 2-1 going into the second.
The Rockets maintained their lead until 18:23 of the second, when defenseman Blake Heinrich blasted a shot from the point that beat Whistle to tie the game at 2-2, which remained the score going into the third.
Portland took their first lead of the game 6:39 into the third when Keoni Texeira took a shot from the slot that beat Whistle to put the Hawks ahead 3-2. Kelowna responded less than two minutes later when Rodney Southam scored to even the game 3-3, then regained a lead when Nick Merkley scored at 13:24 to make it 4-3.
The Rockets extended the lead to 5-3 at 14:48 when Baillie scored his second power play goal of the game. Portland got back within one at 17:37 on a power play when Caleb Jones unloaded a blast from the point to cut the deficit to 5-4.
The Hawks had another late power play and staged a furious rally looking for the equalizer, but the Rockets held them at bay to preserve the win.
All four Hawks goals were scored by defensemen tonight, while Dominic Turgeon added two assists.
The two teams meet again tomorrow night at the Moda Center at 7 p.m.