Coach’s ex-team good test for Kelowna Rockets

The Regina Pats, Jason Smith's former team and one of the WHL's top clubs, will be at Prospera Place Saturday.

Kelowna Rockets’ bench boss Jason Smith will coach against the WHL he played for in the 1990s

It’s been 23 years since Jason Smith wore the uniform of the Regina Pats.

And while history will always connect the Kelowna Rockets’ head coach to his former team, Smith insists there will be little need for reflection during Saturday’s game at Prospera Place.

Finding a way to knock off the Pats (16-2-3-0)—one of the WHL’s top teams early in the season—will be Smith’s and the Rockets’ sole objective.

“I’m not looking at it as anything else than another important game for us,” said Smith, who played for the Pats in the early 1990s.

“It’ll be a great challenge for us, they’re obviously one of the better teams in the league, so hopefully we’ll be able to have some success against them.”

Though he doesn’t get overly sentimental about his former team, Smith still appreciates his stint in Regina and how the Pats became the springboard to a long and successful pro career.

The 43-year-old Calgary native spent two seasons with the Pats, from 1991 to 1993, before going on to play more than 1,000 NHL games over 15 seasons with five different teams.

“It was a great starting point for me to grow as a player,” Smith said of his WHL days in Regina.

“I had an opportunity to play in a lot, and in a lot of different situations throughout my time there.

“It was a great stepping stone to where I went in my pro career.”

Against the Pats, the Rockets (13-11-0) will be looking to rebound from a 6-2 setback Tuesday night against the Royals in Victoria.

The power play was the difference, with the Royals scoring four times, while Kelowna coming up empty with the extra man.

“It’s a chance for us to bounce back,” Smith said Saturday’s game.

“(In Victoria), we played too much one-man hockey. I thought it was a pretty even game 5-on-5.

“Their power play was good, and we couldn’t capitalize. We’ll get back to work and be ready for Saturday.”

The Rockets and Pats face-off Saturday at 7:05 p.m.

On Wednesday, the Rockets will travel to Kennewick, WA, to take on the Tri-City Americans.