Team captains are supposed to lead and Rodney Southam did just that on Friday night.
Southam, the captain of the Kelowna Rockets, scored three times in a 4-0 victory over the visiting Kamloops Blazers at Prospera Place.
The Rockets now hold a 3-2 edge in the first-round best-of-seven WHL playoff series. They get their first chance to finish
off the Blazers tonight at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops. Game time is 7 o’clock. A seventh game, if needed, would be played Monday in Kelowna.
The winner of this series will go against the winner of the series between the Victoria Royals and Spokane Chiefs. The visiting Chiefs won, 4-1, last night but trail in the series, 3-2. They will play Game 6 in Spokane on Sunday.
“They were very intense. Their top three players — Southam, the captain, the goalie (Michael) Herringer, and (Rourke) Chartier — really picked up the intensity of the game and played at a high level,” Kamloops head coach Don Hay told Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier. “Now it’s up to us to match that level (Saturday) night.
“We have to be better. We have to understand that to beat the defending champs, you have to play your best game every night.”
Southam had never before scored three goals in a WHL game. In fact, he had only once scored two goals in a game, and he did that on Oct. 18, 2013, in the 10th game of his WHL career.
This season, he scored eight goals in 60 games, but had just two in the last 26 games. Acquired early last season from the Tri-City Americans, he went into last night’s game with four goals in 28 playoff games. Two of those goals came in 19 post-season games with Kelowna last season.
“I wouldn’t say (taking it) upon myself, it was definitely a 20-man effort, pushing as hard as we can . . . and playing in the moment,” Southam told Fisher.
Southam got the game’s first goal, banging in the rebound of a Rourke Chartier shot while on a power play, at 7:35 of the first period.That perhaps should have been an omen for the Blazers, as the Kelowna power play had been 0-for-17 in the first four games.
Southam made it 2-0 at 2:35 of the second period and Chartier upped it to 3-0 at 7:06 when he tipped in a shot by defenceman Lucas Johansen for another power-play score.
Southam, a 19-year-old from Saskatoon, completed his hat trick at 11:36 of the second.
“That’s huge,” Chartier told Fisher. “He’s our leader and for him to score some goals, it’s not usually what we count on him to do, it was great to see that.
“Everybody’s got to step up in the playoffs, and it was awesome to see that tonight. From goalie out, we’re pretty happy
with our effort and now it’s up to us to get refocused and go into Kamloops.”
Meanwhile, Kelowna goaltender Michael Herringer went back to his old gear and may have rediscovered his game. He had used brand new equipment — gloves and pads — in the first four games of the series, during which he ran hot and cold. He was terrific in a 40-save, 1-0 victory at Memorial Arena on Tuesday, but really fought it through two periods of a 5-1 loss the next night in the Sandman Centre.
Last night, he turned aside 42 shots in posting his second career playoff shutout.
“It’s playoff hockey, sometimes things don’t go your way, but you’ve got to stick with it and I thought we did a good job,” Herringer told Fisher, who said the game was “very similar” to Game 3. “There wasn’t a lot of chances, they were trying to throw pucks at the net from all angles, but (the defencemen) did a really good job of blocking pucks and keeping the shots to the outside.
“The guys were tremendous and I thought this was one of the best defensive games we’ve played all year.”
The Rockets, of course, will be looking for the same kind of game tonight. But what of the Blazers?
“We’re not shooting the puck as much. We’re not keeping the power play as simple as we should, and our special teams got outplayed tonight,” Hay said. “We need more from everybody (Saturday). We need more from all our older players, especially guys that have playoff experience. They have to really step up and lead.”
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 5,261. . . . The Blazers were 0-for-7 on the power play; the Rockets were 2-for-6. . . . The Rockets have opened the scoring in four of the five games. The exception was the Blazers’ 5-1 victory in Game 4. . . . The Blazers’ power play was 3-for-7 in winning 5-4 in Game 2 in Kelowna. In the past three games, they are 0-for-15. . . . The Blazers went with the same lineup they used in Wednesday’s victory, meaning the scratches were G Cole Kehler, F Matt Campese, F Erik Miller and D Conner McDonald. . . . The Rockets scratched F Kole Lind, who took a hard check from D Cam Reagan in Game 4, and inserted F Tate Coughlin. Also scratched were G Jackson Whistle (hip), F Nick Merkley (knee), F Conner Bruggen-Cate and D Braydyn Chizen.
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