The Connor Bedard show came to town, but his best friend and Kelowna Rockets forward Andrew Cristall outdueled him despite the Rockets falling to the Regina Pats 6-5 in overtime on Tuesday night (Nov. 28).
A sellout crowd of 6,407 was not disappointed as they watched two of the top prospects in hockey battle it out in a game that featured 11 goals, six lead changes, 78 shots, and 50 minutes in penalties.
Going into the game, Bedard and Cristall, who are both ranked as ‘A’ prospects by NHL Central Scouting, were and remain first and second in WHL scoring. In such a high-scoring game, people would expect Bedard’s name to be all over the boxscore but that wasn’t the case as the Rockets came so close to ending his 23-game point streak.
But in the battle of best friends, Cristall stole the show as he recorded a four-point night.
The game was tied after the first period as Regina’s Tanner Howe and and Rockets forward Max Graham exchanged goals. Cristall assisted on the goal.
Just over two minutes into the second period, Cristall sniped his 17th goal of the season on the powerplay to give the Rockets a 2-1 lead.
Regina took the lead back, making it 3-2 as Tye Spencer and Borya Valis each scored past Rockets goaltender Tayln Boyko.
But Rockets defenceman Caden Price, who’s also expected to be selected in early in the 2023 NHL Draft, scored on the powerplay to tie the game at three. Cristall recorded the primary assist on the goal.
Just 1:43 into the third period, the Rockets took a 4-3 lead as the new kid on the block found the back of the net. Forward Carson Golder, who was just acquired on Monday, scored his ninth of the season. Golder had a great night in his first game as a Rocket as he also recorded seven shots on net, ended up on the first unit powerplay, and was all around the ice all night.
After Alexander Suzdalev scored for the Pats to tie the game at four, the Rockets got a chance off of a Bedard goaltender interference penalty. Despite the Rockets powerplay being great all night, they couldn’t convert on Bedard’s penalty.
Regina took the lead with 2:28 to go in the game when defenceman Tanner Brown sniped a slapshot off the crossbar and in.
Immediately following the goal, Brown took a penalty, giving the Rockets another powerplay. The man advantage soon turned into a two-man advantage when Howe got a delay of game penalty and a 10-minute misconduct for arguing the call.
With 52 seconds to go and the goaltender pulled, making it a three-man advantage for the Rockets, Cristall scored his second of the game, 18th of the second, and fourth point of the night in dramatic fashion to tie the game at five and force overtime.
Going into the extra frame, Cristall had his four points, but Bedard’s 23-game point streak was on the line as he didn’t record a point in regulation.
But in overtime, Rockets forward Colton Dach took a slashing penalty, giving the Pats a powerplay. And they took advantage of it when Suzdalev one-timed home his second of the game, assisted by Bedard, to give the Pats the 6-5 overtime win.
The assist for Bedard extended his point streak to 24 games and brought him to 54 on the season. With Cristall’s night, he’s up to 43 points on the season as he tried to catch Bedard.
Special teams was one of the key factors in the game as the Rockets went 4-7 with the man-advantage and the Pats went 3-4.
Boyko made 29 saves in the loss while Regina goalie Drew Sim made 39 stops in the win.
With the loss, the Rockets fall to 9-10-2-0 on the season, still sitting in eighth in the Western Conference standings. The Pats also stayed put in the standings, sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference. They are now 12-11-1-1.
The Rockets are heading south of the border now for a three-game weekend in Washington State, starting on Friday, Dec. 2 against the Spokane Chiefs.