Rockets modest about exhibition success

WHL club goes 6-0 in preseason, but real test is regular season

Any coaching staff would be encouraged by an unbeaten preseason.

Still, with the new Western Hockey League regular season set to begin this weekend, head man Ryan Huska isn’t reading too much into his Kelowna Rockets’ spotless 6-0 exhibition record.

“We went 5-1 in exhibition last season and we saw what happened to us after that,” said Huska, whose team started 2010-11 with 4-10 record. “You can’t take a lot of stock out of an exhibition record, a lot of teams are shorthanded with players, sometimes they play 15-year-old goalies, so you can’t always get a good gauge of where you’re at.

“We’re in a situation where we have, I think, the best goaltending in the league and we were able to play them, so that helped us.”

Even so, Huska liked a lot of what he saw from his young squad through six games of the preseason. Five wins were by a single goal, two in a shootout and one in overtime.

“For sure there were a lot of positives, we saw some of things we applied in practices being done in games, so that was good,” he said. “The guys also found a way to win the close games, so that was a positive. But there is a danger in that of thinking it’s going to be easier, but we have to steer the guys away from that.”

As Huska alluded to, goaltending should be the Rockets’ strength this season with 20-year-old Adam Brown and 18-year-old Jordon Cooke sharing the duties.

The club will look to the likes of Shane McColgan, Colton Sissons, and Brett Bulmer to lead the offensive attack.

Above all, youth just might be the operative word for this year’s Rockets with 10 players on the roster 17 years-old or younger.

“It’s young group, but I think a very exciting group we will see develop and get better in the years to come,” Huska said. “We feel like we can be a competitive club this season and in the future.”

The Rockets will open the 2011-12 WHL regular season Saturday night in Everett without one of their top young prospects.

Defenceman Madison Bowey, 16, suffered a knee injury Sept. 9 in Kamloops and will be sidelined on a week-to-week basis.

As for the club’s veterans currently at NHL camps, Zach Franko (Detroit) is expected back this week. No word as of Monday on the returns of Shane McColgan (Rangers), Colton Jobke (Minnesota) or Brett Bulmer (Minnesota).

The Rockets first home game is Saturday, Oct. 1 against the Vancouver Giants.


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