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Kelowna Rockets continue royal dominance over Victoria with 5-1 victory

The Kelowna Rockets are now 3-0 against the team that shares Prospera Place with them this season, that being the Victoria Royals.

On Tuesday night, the Rockets, once again, jumped out to an early lead en route to posting a 5-1 victory.

Just 26 seconds into the first period, Kelowna veteran David Kope beat Royals goaltender Keegan Maddox, going top corner, blocker side.

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“Our results have shown that if we do get off to that quick start, our team is a momentum team and a confidence team, and it just kind of rolls from there,” Rockets head coach Kris Mallette told Global News.

With that opening goal, Kope’s point streak is now at five games. He wound up finishing the evening with three points, including two assists.

A former Edmonton Oil Kings forward for three seasons, the 6-foot-4 Kope now has 101 points in 191 regular-season games. This season, he has 3 goals and 8 assists for 11 points in 8 games.

But this shortened COVID-19 WHL season is all about building for the future, and Kope, 20, is an overage player who won’t be around next fall.

And with Kelowna carrying two 19-year-old goalies — Roman Basran and Cole Schwebius — one of them likely won’t be back next season as well.

“To have two 20-year-olds who most certainly want to be starters playing every other game, it just doesn’t add up,” Mallette said.

Click to play video: Rockets burned by potent power play

So in order to get a look at a future prospect, Kelowna started 16-year-old rookie Nicholas Cristiano between the pipes.

“It was a good team win. The guys, they played really good in front of me, clearing pucks, blocking shots,” Cristiano said after his WHL debut.

The rookie backstop from Langley surrendered just one goal on 32 shots in picking up his first league win.

“Pretty quiet kid, but you couldn’t get the smile off his face — behind the mask, of course,” Mallette said.

Click to play video: Junior hockey: Kelowna Rockets look to forget lopsided 6-0 loss to Vancouver Giants

However, with the Rockets giving up nine power-play opportunities, things could have gone south quite quickly for the untested ‘tender.

“He didn’t give up many rebounds, was able to find the puck through traffic and he competed extremely hard,” Mallette said.

“Five on four, you just try to play the situation and not get too ahead of it, not get behind; just try and stay with the puck,” Cristiano said.

While the Rockets had no problem scoring goals on Tuesday night, Mallette says the team needs to show more discipline when it comes to penalties.

Click to play video: WHL teams participate in smartphone-based COVID-19 diagnosis trial

“There needs to be some sort of repercussion moving forward in this shortened season that just lets our younger players know that it is unacceptable,” Mallette added.

The Rockets are back in action on Thursday night, 7:05 p.m., as they host the Vancouver Giants, the beginning of a busy stretch as they play three games in three nights.

After playing Vancouver, Kelowna will host Kamloops on Friday night, also at 7:05 p.m., then visit the Blazers on Saturday night. That contest starts at 7 p.m.

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