East-leading Hitmen visit Rockets Tuesday in WHL action

Two of league's best meet as Kelowna sees Calgary for the first time this season

After a mediocre start to the 2013-14 season, the Calgary Hitmen are establishing themselves as a formidable presence in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.

The Kelowna Rockets have been no less impressive out west, piling up seven wins and just one regulation loss in their first 10 games.

On Tuesday night, the teams will go head-to-head at Prospera Place in the first of two meetings this season.

The Hitmen (8-3-0-1) have just one shootout loss in their last six games, while the Rockets (7-1-0-2) own the best winning percentage (.800) in the WHL.

“They’re a very good team, you would have to consider them one of the best in the Eastern Conference,” Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said of Calgary. “They have good depth, they skate well and have good size, and really get their defensemen activated and into the play. It should be an entertaining game.”

While the Rockets still have more than enough bodies to fill the lineup sheet on Tuesday, injuries are beginning to make their presence felt in the team’s locker room.

Defenceman Jesse Lees is sidelined two to four weeks with a hand injury, while a broken ankle will keep forward Austin Glover off the ice for the next two to four months.

“It does test your depth, so it’s good that we do have a 24-man roster we can fall back on,” said Huska. “Unfortunately, I think injuries happen even more than they used to because the guys are bigger, stronger and faster and they play with more reckless abandon, you could say. You’re going to go through periods like that, and I think it’s a trend we’re going to see continue.”

Meanwhile, the Rockets won their second in a row on Saturday night, edging the Prince George Cougars 3-2.

“It feels like we’re beginning to put more quality 60-minute efforts together,” Huska said of his team’s effort of late.

This weekend, the Rockets will travel to Victoria for games Friday and Saturday against the Royals.


Kelowna Capital News