‘Room for improvement’ says Rockets coach

New bench boss Brad Ralph would like to see more consistency from defending WHL champs

Brad Ralph and the Kelowna Rockets are off to a 2-1 start to the WHL season.

The Kelowna Rockets’ performance over the first three games of the Western Hockey League season was met with mixed reviews from head coach Brad Ralph.

On one hand, the defending league champs are off to a respectable start with a 2-1 record.

On the other hand, the new bench boss knows the Rockets can be considerably better.

“We all understand there is room for some serious improvement,” said Ralph. “Overall, I don’t think we met expectations.

“We have to work harder on playing the game the right way. But it’s early in the season, so we’ll get things straightened out.”

With a new coach, a new system and a handful of new players, the Rockets—from the front office on down—fully expected a few rough spots to crop up early in the 2015-16 season.

The Rockets opened up with a home-and-home sweep against the Kamloops Blazers Friday and Saturday, before running of steam on Sunday in Vancouver with their third game in as many nights.

The Giants put the first five goals on the board before coasting away with a 5-2 win.

The three-in-three didn’t help the cause, but Ralph wasn’t using it as an alibi.

“It’s about our guys knowing the systems, executing and just playing a more intelligent game,” he said. “I think we were the only team in the league that had to play three in three, so that was a challenging way to start. But those are situations you need to deal with.”

The Rockets are young and relatively inexperienced on the blue line this season, but Ralph said the defense “improved a lot over the weekend and showed us some good things.”

The Rockets schedule doesn’t get any easier this week as the club heads out on a four-game, five-day tour of the Alberta beginning Friday in Edmonton.

“It’s not ideal, we’re not thrilled about it but we have to find way to get through this stretch,” Ralph said. “Bus trips are good…getting out on the road together and getting to know each other will be good for us.”

Meanwhile, the Rockets will be without forward Dillon Dube for the first two games of the trip.

The 17-year-old from Cochrane, Alta., has been disciplined for a kneeing major and ensuing game misconduct during Saturday’s game in Vancouver against the Giants. Dube will be eligible to return for Kelowna’s game Sunday in Lethbridge.

The Rockets next home action is Friday, Oct. 9 against the Victoria Royals.