Rockets pursue first-place Giants

No one need remind Adam Brown of the gravity of Wednesday night’s Western Hockey League tilt at Pacific Coliseum between his Kelowna Rockets and the rival Vancouver Giants.

“The battle for first really starts on Wednesday, that’s where we can make our first big move and then try and build on that,” said Brown, 19, the Rockets’ veteran goaltender. “We want to be on a mission here for the rest of the season to win the division. It’s there for us to grab. That starts in Vancouver.”

With 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Rockets (31-23-0-1) trail the Giants (30-21-1-4) by just two points. Kelowna has one game in hand.

After Wednesday’s contest, the Rockets and Giants will meet three more times this season, including a home-and-away set to close out the regular campaign March 18 and 19.

“Every time we play Vancouver from here on in, it’s going to be like a playoff game,” said Rockets coach Ryan Huska. “Every point will be crucial in the head-to-head games.”

The division champ will not only claim the B.C. banner, but will most likely get the second overall seed for the playoffs.

As it stands now, the second-place finisher in the division would end up as the fifth seed.

The Rockets head into Wednesday’s encounter in less than tip-top shape.

Forwards Mitchell Callahan (head) and Jessey Astles (shoulder), and defencemen Mitchell Chapman (head) and Colton Jobke (suspension) will all be sidelined against the Giants.

With Kelowna’s blue line corps stretched to the limit, Huska said help will need to come from the front end.

“Our forwards will have to do a good job of controlling the play, keeping the puck away from theirs,” said Huska. “We can’t spend a lot of time in our own end.”

As for Adam Brown’s take on how the Giants will approach Wednesday’s game, he expects a familiar theme.

“They’re a hardworking team and they keep things simple,” said Brown, a 25-game winner this season. “They crash they net hard and aren’t afraid to get their noses dirty, and I’m going to have to fight my way through that.”

The Rockets will host Spokane Friday and the Giants on Saturday, before heading out on a four-game eastern road trip beginning Feb. 22 in Kootenay.

Jobke suspended

Colton Jobke won’t see game action with the Kelowna Rockets again until Feb. 25 in Red Deer.

The 18-year-old defenceman has been suspended for seven games by the WHL as the result of a blindside hit on Chilliwack Bruins forward on Friday night at Prospera Place.

Traber is done for the season after falling awkwardly from the hit and breaking his leg.

Jobke has already served two games of the supsension.