Defenceman Jesse Lees (left) and the Kelowna Rockets will host Brandon Magee and the Victoria Royals Wednesday in WHL action.
B.C. Division title beckons for Rockets
By Warren Henderson - Kelowna Capital News
Published: March 04, 2013 11:00 AM
Updated: March 04, 2013 11:17 AM
With six games remaining in the regular season and a three-point edge on Kamloops, the Kelowna Rockets are in control of their own destiny.
Capturing a B.C. Division title and securing second place overall in the WHL's Western Conference are both within the Rockets' grasp.
"It's important for a couple of reasons in that, as a team, you want that title, you want to prove you're the best in your division," said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. "It's also important for home ice advantage because, for at least two rounds, you're going to have four of the seven games in your building.
"It would be a real nice accomplishment for our guys," added Huska, "so that's something hopefully we can achieve here in the next couple of weeks."
The Rockets (46-16-3-1) have a three-point lead over the Kamloops Blazers (44-18-2-3) atop the B.C. Division with Kelowna holding one game in hand.
The teams will meet head on twice more, Friday in Kamloops and Saturday at Prospera Place. The Rockets will be looking for a bounce back effort after dropping a 3-0 contest to the Blazers Sunday night in Kamloops.
"We didn't get the kind of compete we needed from our players," Huska said of Sunday's loss. "Kamloops has a good hockey club, so we have to find a way to be hungrier and come up with a better effort, especially in their building. We need to be more willing to pay the price."
Before meeting Kamloops for a twin bill this weekend, the Rockets will host the struggling Victoria Royals on Wednesday night. Kelowna will round out the regular season with one game against Prince George and two against the last-place Vancouver Giants.
Regardless of their current standing, Huska said it's a mistake to overlook any opponent.
"We're not looking at any of these games as given-wins at all, we're going to have to come and compete and push the tempo against all these teams," said Huska. "Vancouver may be last, but they've been playing a lot better lately and have been winning more of their games. We can't get caught letting our guard down against any one of these teams."
The Rockets were awaiting word Monday on the status of forward Myles Bell. Kelowna's leading scorer left the game in Kamloops in the first periord with a lower body injury after colliding with the Blazers' Sam Grist.
Bell is tops on the Rockets this season in goals (36), assists (51) and points (87).
The Rockets have also been without 20-year-old forward JT Barnett for the last three games with an upper body injury. The Scottsdale, Arizona product is being evaluated on a daily basis.
Rocket Shots…Forward Tyrell Goulbourne had the first four-goal game of his WHL career in a 7-1 Rockets win over Lethbridge on Saturday…20-year-old F Dylen McKinlay leads the Rockets this season in games played (66) and plus-minus (+52).