For a team that didn’t figure to be an offensive juggernaut in the WHL’s B.C. Division this season, the Kelowna Rockets have played the part rather well over the last three weeks.
The Rockets have erupted for 50 goals in their last nine games—eight of them wins—or a 5.55 goals-per-game average.
Over their first 40 games of the WHL season Kelowna averaged a pedestrian 3.08 goals per outing.
It’s not that the team’s newfound offensive prosperity was out of the realm of possibility,
but scoring in bunches wasn’t part of the coaching staff’s master plan when the 2010-11 campaign began.
And while Ryan Huska is nowhere near ready to anoint his club as the league’s most potent offensive force, he is encouraged with the Rockets recent run of success.
“I still don’t think you can consider us as one of the top offensive teams in the league, but with what we’ve done lately, I’d say we’ve moved up to the middle of the pack,” said Huska. “We’re starting to see more guys contributing, it’s a lot more by committee now instead of relying on two or three guys like we were before. What we like is that it’s everybody, more guys are playing a role and it’s infectious.”
What is equally encouraging to Huska is his team’s ability to score goals, even if the chances and shots aren’t coming in droves. The Rockets have been out shot in four of their last six games.
“Even on nights when we don’t get that many shots, the guys are finding a way to score. They’ve been a bit more opportunistic.”
The Rockets are fresh off their best two-game outburst of the season—back-to-back 7-3 home-ice wins over Prince George and Vancouver Giants on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Most importantly, their recent stretch of offensive prosperity has boosted the Rockets (29-20-0-0) into the driver’s seat in the B.C. Division, one point ahead of the Giants (26-20-1-4).
Kelowna is also seven points ahead of Prince George, 11 up on Kamloops and 12 in front of Chilliwack.
“I think our players should be very pleased with the way they’ve been able to battle back after a slow start this season,” Huska said. “At the same time, we have so many divisional games left, a lot can still change. A seven-point lead, you can expand on that quickly with a few wins. But a few losses and it can shrink just as fast.”
The Rockets will play three of their next five games against Marc Habscheid’s Chilliwack Bruins, including this Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Prospera Place.
Despite Chilliwack’s recent struggles—1-5-0-1 in their last seven games—Huska isn’t making assumptions about any easy points.
“When Marc comes in here against his old team, you know he wants to make sure his guys are ready to play,” Huska said. “They have (former Rocket) Curt Gogol over there, too, so I expect they’ll come at us hard.”
This weekend, the Rockets will travel to Prince George for two game the Cougars,
then will play a home-and-away against the Bruins, Feb. 11 in Kelowna and Feb. 12 in Chilliwack.
The most productive weekend of Cody Chikie’s major junior career has earned him Western Hockey League’s player of the week honours.
The diminutive Kelowna Rockets forward scored a goal, added six assists and posted a plus-4 rating to help his team to a pair of home ice victories.
On Friday, the St. Alberta, Alta., product had a goal and three assists, and was named the game’s first star in Kelowna’s 7-3 win over Prince George.
The following night, Chikie tallied three assists in a 7-3 win over the Vancouver Giants as the Rockets took over top spot in the B.C. Division.
Chikie has 10 goals and 14 assists in 45 games this season.