Rockets third best in Canada

Katie Brickman
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Hora scores winner in overtime

Linden Hora scored the biggest goal of his career.

The Okanagan Rockets won the bronze medal at the Telus Cup on Sunday afternoon at Mosaic Place.

Just 3:28 into the overtime period, Okanagan Rockets forward Hora beat Izzy Benigno of the Toronto Young Nationals five-hole to capture the bronze medal at the Telus Cup on Sunday afternoon.

“It felt really good. I got help from Branden Wagner,” said Hora. “I didn’t see it (go in) at first, but when I looked back and it was in, it was awesome.”

The Rockets trailed 2-0 heading into the third period, but fought back to defeat the Nationals 3-2 in overtime to finish third out of 143 teams in the country.

“I can’t be more proud of the guys for sticking together to make sure this was a successful event as we possibly could have had in this game,” said Mack O’Rourke, head coach for the Rockets. “The guys dug deep. They started out slow … it is hard to get emotionally motivated for this game.”

The Nationals capitalized on some undisciplined play by the Rockets in the second period to score two power play goals.

In the third period, the Rockets pushed back, outshooting the Nationals 17-8 and scoring twice.

“I think when they got the two power play goals, it hurt, but we are a team that doesn’t quit,” stated O’Rourke. “We knew we had to get one before they got a third. We did and we built on it.”

Hora got his first goal of the afternoon early in the period and then Liam Finlay got the tying goal on the power play.

“We just didn’t get the lucky bounces today,” said Benigno. “We came out strong in the first and second and we thought we could have played better in the third. We just didn’t get the bounces and that sometimes happens.”

Hora has been a fourth-line player for the Rockets, but has embraced his role with the team.

“Linden has been a player all year that has been a go-to guy. Sometimes he doesn’t get all the minutes and sometimes he gets a ton of minutes,” said O’Rourke. “He is calm and that helped him today in a championship game.”

The Rockets started Reid Kilburn in net. Prior to this game, he had only played one period and let in four goals on 16 shots. That didn’t faze the coaching staff though, as they had confidence in him.

“Reid is a quality goalie. Goalies can’t play seven games in seven days. There is fatigue involved. It was time that we had to get a fresh body in there and give a guy a break,” said O’Rourke. “Reid has been the best teammate through this stretch. Give him all the credit in the world – he made some big saves and the two that beat him were phenomenal shots.”

Although it is bittersweet for the Nationals, they are still proud of their accomplishments this season.

“We can’t be negative,” said Benigno. “We had a great season … the GTHL champions, the OHF champions. We can’t be down on ourselves. We are still in the four of Canada and that is something to be proud of.”

For the Rockets, it was the gold they wanted, but will happily take the bronze medal.

“It is not what we came here for, but the experience and the year we had to get the bronze medal – it is the second happiest medal you can win because silver is a tough one to swallow,” said O’Rourke. “We are ecstatic and the boys left it all out there and it caps off a remarkable season.” 

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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