Rockets advance to Western Conference final

The Kelowna Rockets defeated the Portland Winterhawks 6-2 on Friday night in game five of the second round of the 2017 WHL Playoffs eliminating the Hawks in the best-of-seven series 4-1 to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the fourth consecutive season.

The Rockets tore out of the gates scoring three opening period goals on the power play. First Reid Gardiner scored his ninth of the post season, followed by Rodney Southam collecting his second. Gardiner rounded out the scoring in the period with his 10th and the Rockets took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.

Portland responded in the second period collecting a goal from Joachim Blichfeld before Matt Revel scored shorthanded to make it a one goal game. The Rockets took a 3-2 lead into the final stanza but Portland had all the momentum.

That momentum was dashed when Gardiner scored his third of the night and 11th of the playoffs in the third period to pull the Rockets back ahead by two. Gardiner just wouldn't stop adding yet another one for his 12th and fourth of the night. Dillon Dube added an empty netter as the Rockets came out as 6-2 winners.

Michael Herringer made 27 saves on 29 shots as the Rockets outshot Portland 44-29.

Reid Gardiner led the Rockets with a monstrous four goals and two assists. Dillon Dube (1G, 3A), Calvin Thurkauf (2A), and Nick Merkley (2A) also enjoyed multi-point nights.

Kelowna wins the best-of-seven series 4-1 advancing to the Western Conference Finals to have a meeting with the Seattle Thunderbirds for the second year in a row. Last season the Rockets were eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by the Thunderbirds in just four games. The Rockets aim to avenge themselves starting in Seattle on Friday, April 21st at 7:35pm. Game two will be the following night, Saturday, April 22nd, at 7:05pm. The best-of-seven series will then shift up north to Prospera Place here in Kelowna for Games three and four on Tuesday, April 25th, and Wednesday, April 26th, respectively.