Missing nearly six weeks because of injury didn’t affect NHL elite prospect Andrew Cristall in the slightest, as he returned to the Kelowna Rockets lineup in a big way on Wednesday night.
After missing 14 games with a lower-body injury, the 18-year-old returned to the lineup and gave the Rockets the offensive boost they needed, netting his first career WHL hat trick before adding a fourth goal for good measure in the Rockets 5-2 win over the Everett Silvertips.
After a scoreless first period, the Rockets struck early in the second when captain Gabriel Szturc scored a powerplay goal, making it 1-0. It was his 18th of the season. Szturc finished with a four-point night.
Then it was the Andrew Cristall show as he scored three goals in 9:44 to make it 4-0.
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) February 16, 2023
Everett’s Jackson Berezowski scored twice in the third period to make it 4-2, but Cristall’s fourth goal of the game, an empty-netter, sealed the deal with seven seconds left to go in the game.
With the four-goal effort, Cristall is up to 30 goals in 37 games this season. He has a total of 66 points on the campaign.
Return from a long layoff, look like you haven’t missed a game & produce like usual with a 🎩🎩🎩🎩🏒🥅🚨in a 5-2 win. @Kelowna_Rockets @AndrewCristall is a top player for @NHL #2023NHLDraft https://t.co/pvJ5PR49ly
— Craig Button (@CraigJButton) February 16, 2023
Cristall is a top prospect in the eyes of many hockey scouts and analyists ahead of the 2023 NHL Draft. Out of 13 analyists and prospect outlets, Cristall is ranked anywhere from sixth to 18th among draft eligible players in their latest rankings. He is considered an ‘A’ prospect.
Forward Ty Hurley also returned to the lineup on Wednesday night.
Jari Kykkanen made 41 saves on the win for the Rockets.
With the win, the Rockets snap their four-game losing streak and continue to hold onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the WHL’s Western Conference with a record of 18-30-3-0. With Cristall back in the lineup and the team getting healthier all around, the team is looking to go on a run with 17 games to go in the regular season.
The Rockets are back in action on Saturday night (Feb. 18) when they welcome the Portland Winterhawks to Prospera Place. Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m.