For Brad Ralph and his Kelowna Rockets, it’s good to be home.
After playing six of their first seven games of the WHL season on the road, the Rockets will return to Prospera Place ice Friday night to take on the Victoria Royals.
“They’ve been playing well,” Ralph said of the Royals, who are 4-1-0-0. “Every team we come up against seems to have a different style, we haven’t seen them yet, they’re a heavy team.
“It’s nice to be home and it’s exciting to see how we match up against them.”
The Rockets are coming off six straight games away from home, including four in a five-night span in Alberta.
Kelowna went a solid 3-1-0-0 against Central Division foes, concluding the tour with a 6-5 win Tuesday in Medicine Hat.
Consdering his club has played just once at home to date, a 5-2-0-0 start to the 2015-16 campaign sits well with the new head coach.
“I think in the big picture, we’re pretty happy with where we’re at,” said Ralph. “We’ve played a lot of hockey in a short time, four in five is not easy but we got some big wins and some big performances.
“I think the real positive is that we can improve,” he added, “we’re winning games but we can still be better.”
Admittedly, the number of goals being scored—particularly against his own team—
has been a bit of a surprise for Ralph in the early going.
In seven games this season, the Rockets have tallied 34 times while giving up 29—or more than four per game.
“I knew we had a potent offence and we would score, but I expected tighter defensive hockey from us,” he said. “The good thing is, that’s something we can fix…and when we do, we’re going to be an even harder team to handle.”
After going pointless in his first three games, forward Nick Merkley got on the board with his first goal of the season Tuesday against the Tigers.
Merkley, who led the Rockets last season with 90 points, was injured at Arizona Coyotes rookie camp and just played his first game of the season on Friday night in Edmonton.
Ralph said the Calgary-born forward isn’t all that far away from returning to form.
“Every injury takes some time to get back in the groove, sometimes it’s eight to 10 games before you’re playing your game,” said Ralph. “With Nick being as good as he is, I expect his recovery time will be shorter. Him and (Rourke) Chartier were both pretty good against Medicine Hat, so it shouldn’t be long before he’s back to normal.”
The Rockets will have the remainder of the weekend off before returning to action Wednesday at home to the Red Deer Rebels.
Kelowna’s next road action is next Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 and 17 in Prince George.