Rockets get blue liner back for Red Deer

Kelowna Rockets defenceman MacKenzie Johnston chases down Tigers forward Tyler Pitlick in WHL action Wednesday in Medicine Hat.

Colton Jobke hasn’t played much hockey over the last month. 

Between a knee injury and a seven-game suspension, the Kelowna Rockets defenceman has appeared in just one of his club’s last 14 games dating back to Jan. 22.

It should come as no surprise then that Jobke is excited to be back in the lineup Friday night when the Rockets visit the Red Deer Rebels.

“To sit there for two weeks being healthy and not being able to play was frustrating, but I just tried to stay positive through it all,” said Jobke, 18, who has finished serving a seven-game suspension for a blindside hit on Chilliwack’s Tim Traber on Feb. 11 at Prospera Place.

“It goes without saying I’m really excited to be back. I’m happy to be able to eat up some minutes and help the guys out back there.”

Even without Jobke and the injured Mitchell Chapman (head) for the past several games, Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said the club’s remaining five-man blue line corps has been doing an admirable job.

“It’ll be nice to have a body back in Colton,” said Huska. “But one thing being short on D has done is allowed other guys to step up and take on bigger role. Guys like MacKenzie Johnston and Damon Severson have played a lot and have really done a good job.”

A solid defensive effort was largely responsible for the Rockets 3-2 shootout win over the Medicine Hat Tigers on Wednesday night. 

Colton Sissons’ marker in the seventh round of the shootout was the winner as Kelowna made amends for a 4-2 loss a night earlier in Kootenay. 

Another key in Medicine Hat was limiting the Tigers’ ability to play their high-tempo style of game. 

“Our effort was very good, we did a good job on our forecheck and with pressuring their defense,” said Huska. “We stuck with it for the whole 60 minutes and it paid off.”

In Red Deer Friday, Huska said the Rockets will face a similar opponent to the Tigers. Led by offensive star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and goaltender Darcy Kuemper, the Rebels are another of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams with 42 victories.  

“We’ll need to play exactly the same way in Red Deer than we did in Medicine Hat,” said Huska. “(The Rebels) are a very good team with Nugent-Hopkins and probably the best goalie in the league. We’ll need to get lots of pucks on him and pressure their defense.”

The Rockets will close out their four-game eastern road trip Saturday night in Calgary against the Hitmen.   

whenderson@kelownacapnews.com